Effort to tackle disparities between Blacks and Latino males and their peers

New Amereica Alliance, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is at the forefront of an effort to tackle the broad disparities slowing the advancement of Black and Latino young men.

The project connect young men to educational, employment and mentoring opportunities across more than a dozen city agencies.

Touted as a bold and comprehensive public/private partnership, the recently-launched Young Men’s Initiative will benefit from an investment of $127 million in programs that will involve broad policy changes and agency reforms over the next three years.

Mr. Bloomberg announced the initiative Aug. 4 at a breakfast co-hosted by the Council of Urban Professionals and the New America Alliance at the offices of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where he was joined by Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott, President of the Eagle Academy Foundation David Banks, President of the New York Women’s Foundation Ana Oliveira, and George Soros.

“When we look at poverty rates, graduation rates, crime rates, and employment rates, one thing stands out: Blacks and Latinos are not fully sharing in the promise of American freedom and far too many are trapped in circumstances that are difficult to escape,” the mayor expained. “Even though skin color in America no longer determines a child’s fate – sadly, it tells us more about a child’s future than it should. And so this morning, we are confronting these facts head-on, not to lament them, but to change them, and to ensure that ‘equal opportunity’ is not an abstract notion but an everyday reality, for all New Yorkers,” he added.

This cross-agency enterprise is the culmination of 18 months of work begun when the mayor committed in his 2010 State of the City address to find new ways to tackle the crisis.

Key programmatic components include the overhaul of the Department of Probation, which has supervision of almost 30,000 New Yorkers—the majority Black and Latino males. As part of the Young Men’s Initiative, the Department of Probation will take responsibility for connecting probationers to the economic and educational opportunities that can prevent recidivism and will launch five satellite offices in neighborhoods with the highest number of disconnected youth.

To strengthen educational supports, $18 million will help provide transformative mentoring and literacy services while a $24 million investment will launch the Expanded Success Initiative, a pioneering effort that will target schools that have shown progress in closing the achievement gap in high school graduation and use them a laboratory for strategies to eradicate the achievement gap in college and career readiness.

Additionally, an investment of almost $25 million will connect young men with employment opportunities via an expansion of Jobs-Plus, an evidence-based program that program that saturates public housing communities with high-quality services, community support for work, and removes barriers to obtaining employment.

Key developments to policy and agency practice include: new metrics in School Progress Reports to hold schools accountable for the performance of black and Latino males; a requirement for City agencies to encourage and support young people in obtaining government-issued identification, the lack of which serve as a barrier to employment; the development of criteria for teen-friendly clinics that will lead to more young people being able to access appropriate health care services; a review of agency policies to identify where obstacles to father involvement can be reduced; and an Executive Order ensuring that City agencies do not place undue barriers in their own hiring processes for people with criminal convictions unrelated to the jobs for which they are applying.

Over the next three years, the programmatic innovation portion of the initiative will be funded with $67.5 million of city funding, $30 million from the Campaign for Black Male Achievement of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and $30 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and Chancellor Dennis Walcott will supervise implementation of the Young Men’s Initiatives across city agencies. The Mayor has directed all involved agencies to report to him each month on their progress. These standing meetings will ensure that agencies are held accountable for success.

“The obstacles faced by young men and boys of color are appalling and inconsistent with the open society we aspire to be,” said George Soros. “I know from practical experience that it is possible to make meaningful improvements and transform the lives of our most vulnerable.”

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