In Boston, youth are leading the change
February 29, 2016
Last year, Boston Public Schools student Malachi Hernandez, 17, stood next to President Barack Obama at a My Brother’s Keeper Town Hall and said young people deserve to be loved.
Just last month, Stephen Lafume, 17, presented to White House officials and leaders from across the country on Boston’s youth participatory budgeting program, a first-of-its-kind in the nation.
These examples of leadership are snapshots of the many ways My Brother’s Keeper Boston has encouraged young people to stand up for themselves, for their peers, and for our city’s future.
Two years ago, in my first months as Mayor, Boston proudly answered President Obama’s call, becoming one of the first cities to participate in the MBK Community Challenge.
Our reasons were clear. Two-thirds of Bostonians under the age of 19 are black or latino—yet research shows that they face significantly greater challenges than their peers. In other words, our city’s future depends on giving all our youth an equal chance at success. We are determined to be our brother’s keeper, our sister’s keeper, and our community’s keeper.
Since then, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. In new initiatives, established programs, and everyday operations across city agencies, we have integrated MBK principles: to ensure all our youth graduate from high school ready for college and career; to make sure young people successfully enter the workforce; and to reduce youth violence and provide second chances.
Just a few highlights include:
- Matching more than 500 new mentors with Boston’s boys and girls, on pace to achieve our goal of 1,000 mentors by 2017.
- Expanding Operation Exit, a program that gets CORI-carrying and court-involved young adults into job-training programs with guaranteed career opportunities.
- Partnering with local companies and providers to support entrepreneurship among youth of color both in school and out.
- Inviting young people to help redesign the high school curriculum for 21st education through an engagement and planning process.
- Provided a record 10,360 youth jobs through the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program in 2015, adding more than 1,000 jobs since 2013.
- Expanded direct interventions to reduce violence by hiring 18 new Violence Interrupters, adding to our citywide network of street workers.
- Shared our groundbreaking youth participatory budget process, Youth Lead the Change, as a model of civic engagement across the nation and around the world.
I am immensely proud of all this progress and more. It’s been made possible by an extraordinary coalition of young people and all those who care about them—brought together by the far-sighted framework of the My Brother’s Keeper vision.
Boston is committed to continuing this work because Boston is committed tearing down the barriers that make it challenging for youth of color to succeed.
MBK reminds elected officials like me to ask in very specific ways: what can we do in government, and across our communities, to correct inequities and unlock the potential of young people of color?
Building on this focus, last month I released Boston’s Economic Inclusion and Equity Agenda. It’s a roadmap to equal opportunity in careers, in business ownership, and in community wellbeing.
As is true across America, inequality in Boston is rooted in decades and centuries of injustice. The work of finally eradicating these disparities will take many years.
But one outcome has been immediate. And that’s because MBK is about more than policy. It’s about empowerment. It’s in the voices of Malachi, and Stephen, and thousands of others who have stood up and made their voices heard. Young people are leading the way to a better future for them, for our city, and for our country. That’s something that gives all of us hope.