Thank you for writing. I have heard from many Americans who are concerned about our Nation’s young people, and I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with me.
As a young man, I made some bad choices and did not always take school as seriously as I should have. I didn’t have a dad in the house, and I was angry about it—even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. I made excuses, and I sold myself short.
Luckily, I grew up in a forgiving environment. I had people who encouraged me and pushed me to work and study hard, to make the most of myself. They allowed me second and third chances and never gave up on me—so I didn’t give up on myself. Every child deserves those same chances.
For decades, however, opportunity has lagged behind for boys and young men of color. Regardless of where they come from, they are disproportionately at risk from their youngest years. We need to change this—for their sake, and for the sake of America’s future.
This is why I launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative: a collaborative, cross-cutting effort to help ensure these boys and young men have every opportunity to reach their full potential. It is an effort based on using proven tools to help more of our young people stay on track. But the Federal Government cannot play the primary role here. It will require all of us joining together to expand the horizons for our young men and empower them with the tools they need to succeed. From there, it’s up to each of them to seize the opportunity and make the most of it.
Again, I appreciate your email, and voices like yours will remain on my mind as I continue working to give all our children the chance to achieve their dreams—no matter what they look like or where they live. To learn more about My Brother’s Keeper, including how to get involved and share your story with others, please visit www.WhiteHouse.gov/My-Brothers-Keeper.
Letter to Urban Workforce Initiatives from the President
Empowering young urban males with the skills, confidence and motivation to compete in today's volatile workforce through the power of early intervention, job-coaching and prayer
So tell me a little about UWI and its purpose:
UWI was created because there are so few programs and resources to help young urban males cope with the challenges of a turbulent labor force. If they make one wrong step along the way, they may be forever limited in finding long-term sustainable employment with good pay and good benefits.
Aren't there other government agencies and program already in place to serve that purpose?
Unfortunately, there are very,few options that are specifically designed to assist urban youths who are at crossroads and badly need help with finding their way into the American labor force. There are numerous programs that offer assistance to those who might have been incarcerated and need help once they are released back into society but UWI was established to help young urban males develop proper working attitudes before they end up making bad decisions that could wind up landing them in prision. Once a young minority males is incarcerated, the chances of him ever entrenching himself into the fabric of the American labor force diminishes dramatically.
Unemployment for urban youths in many metropolitan areas is upwards of 40-50 percent in may cases. Many of these kids have every intention of becoming viable components of the labor force, but ultimately become discouraged and disillusioned about their paltry and dead-end prospects, often leading them into the crosshairs of .
What types of programs or training does UWI offer?
First, I perform an assessment to find to determine if current job skills are present. Second, I prepare a customized plan of action predicated on skill set or acumen. UWI is not an educational or vocational institution. There are enough viable options around our community that are well-equipped to to perform these functions. However, I do ecourage our participants to discover exactly that training matches their interest. One major problem in out society is the fact that almost everyone is led to believe that they must acquire an education in order to establish themselves in the workforce and this is simply not the case. Billions and billions of heard-earned dollars are wasted each year by young people who are ill-equipped and uninterested in school. We help our participants avoid these pitfalls and delve right into career opportunities that can help them succeed.
What kind of young men are targeted by UWI?
Any young man between the ages of 14-24 who is struggling with uncertainty and lacks direction. There are already programs in place to help young people who might have been incarcerated or who might be dealing with a drug problem. This is not our realm of expertise. We are focused on helping our young people avoid these pitfalls. Our primary focus is to instill the values of confidence and self-worth. This is not to say that we will not consider anyone who has faced trouble, but our program objectives are predicted around helping those kids who are simply looking for guidance.
A lot of our young men have never had a father figure in their lives. Over 63 percent of the homes in the Houston area lack the presence of a working father. What kind of working values can be instilled into a young man when he does not understand what its like to see his father get up and get dressed for work each day. Other young black kids have seen their working fathers deal with unfair circumstances and lose his job.
People don’t understand how traumatic it is for a family when a black man losses his job. It will take the average black man nearly twice as long to regain employment in comparison to his white counterparts. It’s devastation for a young black or Hispanic boy witnesses the only token of stability deal with the grappling effects of unemployment. He usually ends up thinking that there is no hope or future for him. UWI identifies participants in different ways, but mainly by partnering with schools, church groups and community groups land some of our students. Others, might even be discovered through personal relationships.
Does UWI only assist young black males?
The term "urban" actually applies to anyone part of innercity dynamic. The focus of our outreach is more so targeted towards black and latino males between the ages of 16-24 however, there are certainlly young white and Asian males that are part of this demographic. One of the most deeply-rooted maladies in society is the fact that there are fewer black fathers leading their households of any group. This pattern tends to be one of the leading reasons why well-over 50 percent of US prisions are occupied by black males when black males account for just over six percent of the total US population. We do however try and focus our attention to males. We are working closely with numerous groups to assist females in this age group who are also facing challenges. One goal is to one day replicate the same initiative for urban females. Statistics also clearly prove that males are the ones actually facing the bigger challenges in this age group.
How long is each session?
Once the program is up and running sufficiently, the goal is to offer certification sessions that require 20 hours of high-octane, exhilarating interactive skills development. Then, we encourage our participants to provide feedback to us during their first two weeks of their first working opportunity that they partake in after completing one of our sessions. In all, we think that 40 hours of feedback will be plenty to get them prepared to become fully integrated into the workplace.
Doesn't mentorships offer some of the same things?
Some actually do. Mentoring is one of the great contributions in the history of mankind, but in all reality, mentoring has become a struggle for the majority of the individuals who graciously offer their time and resources, as well as many of the organizations who facilitate them. Nothing can be better than having a strong, viable and confident male offer individual guidance into the life of a young man who badly needs it. But the truth of the matter is… we are in a time of crisis. More black men are facing unemployment than ever before. And other black and Hispanic males who are fortunate to be working might now be forced to work for lower wages and even work more hours. People simply don’t have the time or resources that they’ve had in past years to participate in mentoring programs.
Organizations are struggling to keep their mentor programs alive. I worked with a group a few years back that offered time off for those within their organizations who volunteered to mentor, but when they started to layoff their staff, people were forced to relinquish their mentoring duties are they scrambled to look for work. At UWI, we like to look at ourselves as an ongoing mentorship program. Our participants are welcomed to attend future events that we offer. We consider them to be part of the UWI family.
What do you envision for the future UWI
I expect nothing less than for UWI to forever alter the working landscape of urban youths in America. Because of our outreach, I expect to see a noticeable reduction in crime as well as an decrease in kids who drop out of school. Imagine, if we could eliminate thousands and thousands of people from our prisons populations and help to create thousands of employment opportunities for those same people. We all benefit; our communities and ultimately our entire county. Our goal is to unite some of the other wonderful organizations and infuse an array of excitement into the minds of our politicians and corporate leaders to come aboard and create change like this country has not witnessed before.
The following article clearly proves how we are losing control of our communities and how the expanding epidemic of crime needs to be addressed immediately
Empowering young urban males with the skills, confidence and motivation to compete in today's volatile labor force through the power of early intervention, job-coaching and prayer
URBAN WORKFORCE INITIATIVES