A version of this post was originally published on LinkedIn.
There are a few notable projects each year that people at Edelman and our sister PR firms feel privileged to work on. Yesterday, we helped launch My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBKA) program in the Bronx, with President Barack Obama announcing more than $80 million in private sector commitments to support boys and young men of color from birth through young adulthood. This program was spawned in the White House at the beginning of 2014 by Broderick Johnson, assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary, and will now be run by Joseph Echevarria, former CEO of Deloitte.
Our team pitched the story as an economic imperative for U.S. business. Hayley Meadvin, a vice president in our New York office, told me that by 2018, U.S. employers will need 22 million new workers with a post-secondary education but only 19 million will be available. Meanwhile, by that date, a majority of Americans under 18 will be people of color; fully a quarter of African American and Hispanic males are now considered disconnected, neither in school nor employed. Only 52 percent of African American males graduate from high school. This is a clear disconnect that must be remedied.
The problem starts very early in childhood. If you are not reading at a comparable level by the time you enter the third grade, the chances are high that you will not graduate from high school. By the age of three, children from low-income homes hear 30 million fewer words than their peers from wealthier neighborhoods. Only three of 10 in poor neighborhoods are enrolled in standard pre-schools.
Companies including Pepsico, Sprint, Deloitte, Prudential, American Express and Sam’s Club have signed on as charter members. The MBKA program will start this summer with a grants competition to support programs as follows:
- Early Childhood—0 to 5—Enter School Ready to Learn
- Middle Childhood—6 to 8—Reading at Grade Level by Third Grade
- Adolescence—12 to 18—Graduate from High School Ready for College or Career
- Late Teens—Complete Post-Secondary Education in Community College or Skills Training
- Young Adult—Successful Entry to Work Force
- Young Adult—Reduce Violence, Provide Second Chance
I would hope that you would alert your clients to this important initiative and encourage them to participate. Given the recent events in Baltimore, there can be no better time.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.