Doubling Down on the Young Men's Initiative

Each morning in high school, I woke up to one New York. In my East New York, Brooklyn neighborhood, most students attended local high schools like Thomas Jefferson, a school that was notorious for poor safety and even poorer graduation rates.

An hour later, I'd arrive at Stuyvesant High School, surrounded by young men and women who were taught challenging classes by excellent teachers. Not only were my classmates expected to graduate and go to college, they were given the tools to get there.

I knew the young men I grew up with in East New York weren't struggling for lack of trying. I knew they were just as inspired and intelligent as my high school classmates; they too dreamed of a future full of educational and personal success. But there weren't enough people providing critical resources or setting high expectations to help these young men succeed. I knew that however hard they tried, too often something even stronger was pushing against them.

What our city needs is a force pushing back. We need something helping the young men in East New York, and in communities across the city, access the services, job opportunities, and education I had access to each day; the services they need to support their families and give their children a brighter future.

On Friday, New York City took a strong step toward achieving this critical goal. Because on Friday, Mayor de Blasio committed to a major expansion of the Young Men's Initiative to increase access to opportunity for the young men and burgeoning adults like those I grew up with in East New York.

This initiative will help a young man in Jamaica find a full-time job through access to job training programs. It will assist a father in Melrose learn to read to his young daughter through literacy courses. It will connect an adolescent in East New York with a mentor to help steer him on the track for success.

Since the Young Men's Initiative began in 2011, started by Mayor Bloomberg and funded by the Bloomberg and Open Society Foundations, it has helped over 50,000 young men navigate the challenges of city life.

Yet despite YMI's success, there are still thousands of young Black and Latino men across our city that have never had a chance to achieve their full potential. And now, New York City is poised to help them.

As a committed partner of the White House's My Brother's Keeper initiative, YMI will commit to ensuring all young men in New York City complete post-secondary education or training. We work to engage more young men of color in the teaching profession. We will create an annual report to study the policies that currently exist to help these young men, and to understand why such disparities are still experienced by these men each day.

Each morning, I took the subway across the East River and left behind one New York, filled with determined young men who were struggling each day against terrific odds. And I entered a classroom filled with students who had earned the golden ticket of admission to one of the city's top high schools--a ticket that would help determine the rest of our lives.

We can't continue allowing a select few to succeed while so many slip through the cracks. This year, we will double down on the Young Men's Initiative and make sure that no more young men are left behind.