Obama Initiative to Help Boys, Young Men of Color Backed by L.A. Group

The Los Angeles-based California Endowment was among the foundations backing an initiative announced today by President Barack Obama intended to help boys and young men of color.

Dr. Robert K. Ross, The California Endowment's president and CEO, joined other foundation, business, religious, and public sector leaders at a meeting with Obama and joined him at the announcement of the initiative in the White House's East Room. (Disclosure: The California Endowment has funded KCET programs.)

"All of our sons and brothers need support and opportunities to be successful," Ross said. "As tomorrow's leaders, young people of color will help define America's future. Now is the time to work together, invest in these young people, and provide them what they need to be responsible and healthy adults."

Obama's initiative, dubbed My Brother's Keeper, will identify and promote programs helping connect boys and young men of color to mentoring, support networks, and skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way into the middle class, according to the White House.

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"The group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in 21st century America is boys and young men of color," Obama said. "... By giving more of our young men access to mentors ... we can keep them from falling through the cracks."

Obama signed a presidential memorandum establishing the My Brother's Keeper Task Force, an interagency effort charged with helping determine what public and private efforts are working and how to expand upon them, how the federal government's policies and programs can better support the efforts and how to involve state and local officials, the private sector, and philanthropic community.

The task force will be chaired by Broderick Johnson, an assistant to the president and cabinet secretary.

My Brother's Keeper has received the backing of other leading foundations and such businesses as McDonald's, American Express, and Sam's Club.

Business leaders who met with Obama today to discuss ways they and their companies can help improve the lives of boys and young men of color included Basketball Hall of Fame member Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Thomas Tull, the CEO of Burbank-based Legendary Entertainment.

The California Endowment has committed spending $50 million over seven years on behalf of its Sons & Brothers campaign, intended to "make health and opportunity happen for boys and men of color," according to the Endowment, a private statewide health foundation whose mission is expanding access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and promoting improvements in the health status of all Californians.

The $50 million will be used to improve third-grade reading levels, reduce chronic absenteeism and reduce the school dropout rate, support efforts at overhauling the juvenile justice system, and enrolling young people into health coverage programs.

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City News Service is an independent wire service that serves Los Angeles area news outlets. Posts identifying them in a byline means KCET-TV has used their story, either in full or close to full.

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