It has been nearly two years since the Arlington School District adopted a branch of “My Brother’s Keeper” (MBK) in February 2021. Since then, the Arlington program enrolls 20 to 25 students at both LaGrange and Union Vale Middle Schools.
Begun in 2014 under the Obama administration, MBK consists of several initiatives aimed at helping underprivileged youth of color. For example, the MBK Family and Community Engagement Program enhances the academic opportunities and the career development of students by fostering individual relationships with families of MBK students. MBK administers “Challenge Grants” to individual New York school districts to bolster their college services and career-focused programs.
Currently, the MBK Fellows program connects high school seniors with educational and career opportunities by placing them in a local government office, business or educational institution. MBK student fellows are then able to create and design service projects to benefit their communities at the schools that they attend. According to the New York State Education Department, there were 247 fellows in 2021.
The MBK Exemplary School Models and Practices program began in 2016 and is meant to expand educational opportunities that build confidence and “academic identity” for MBK students. Since the program’s inception, MBK has added the Native American Program to enhance the academic and career readiness of Native American students—primarily boys and young men—to close traditional opportunity and educational gaps present in society. According to the New York State Education Department, in 2018 alone the state provided $750,000 to 11 school districts to fund this program.
United with 30 other New York communities, Arlington’s incorporation into MBK is monumental. As NY Education Department Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young Jr. explained, “By achieving this milestone, we are able to reach more boys and young men of color and help make a difference in their lives. The additions of Arlington, Elmont, Roosevelt, Sewanhaka and Uniondale will make our MBK community network even stronger.”
Between 2016 and 2017, New York became the first state to write My Brother’s Keeper into state law. The State Education Department supplied a $20 million budget to support these programs. However, Poughkeepsie Coordinator Da’Ron Wilson acknowledges that increasing funding to the programs to provide more travel and internship opportunities would allow for more benefits to the children and adolescents engaged in the program in Poughkeepsie and beyond.
Wilson further shared reflections about MBK’s direct effects on the community: “The most rewarding part is to see former students returning and working with current students to give them examples of how to succeed in life. It also connects the current students to the different networking opportunities that are available to them.” In the Arlington and Poughkeepsie communities, Wilson credits the initial Brother 2 Brother program—which mentors young people in academics, social life and career development, beginning as early as elementary school—as being integral to the successful implementation of the MBK program throughout Poughkeepsie. He believes wholeheartedly in the program’s mission, expressing his own desire to see students get ahead and seek out opportunities they may not otherwise have access to.
Building on the many successful programs already in place, Wilson noted his dreams for MBK’s future and how it can expand and evolve going forward: “I think that the MBK can continue to grow and be a part of every school district across America and then eventually global. If the principles and foundation can spread to the everyday work of school systems, outcomes for children will be much different.”