July 11, 2014 I had the pleasure this week to meet with a small group of amazing young people at the Urban Alliance Foundation's Washington branch. Urban Alliance is a program that provides high school seniors with a part-time job during the school year, full-time work experience in the summer, and wrap-around support throughout the year, including professional development, job training, financial literacy, mentorship, and post-high school planning services. Participants in the program receive real-world work experience – thanks largely to opportunities made available by the organization's business partners and valuable contacts.
The two current program participants I met, along with the two alums who joined us on summer break from college, explained how their work experiences gave them a glimpse of their potential futures as successful career professionals. And the results of this approach have been tremendous: 100 percent of Urban Alliance interns graduate high school on time, 90 percent are accepted into college, and 80 percent persist in college.
The good news is that all around the country, there are similar, successful programs finding success, closing achievement gaps, strengthening our workforce, and giving every young person a chance to reach their dreams. It is our objective to take these outstanding models of success to scale so that every young person in America, regardless of his or her zip code, has the same opportunity to achieve.
It's precisely this type of sharing of best practices and success stories which rests at the center of My Brother's Keeper, an initiative launched by President Obama, and led in partnership with business, philanthropic, education, labor, and cultural leaders around the country to help boys and young men of color overcome often daunting odds.
Beyond changing the lives of individuals, it's important to underscore the incredible potential we unlock in this country when we work together to build pathways of opportunity and success for all of our young people. We can transform neighborhoods, stem generational poverty, and build a brighter future for us all.
As is the case with the Urban Alliance, the best progress tends to be made when ordinary folks band together and commit to do extraordinary things. The fact is, this type of effort isn't "charity." Anyone concerned with the economic future of American families and our national economy knows that investing in the success of a segment of our population that otherwise would continue to fall behind is an investment in our collective future and our long-term prosperity.
To learn more and get involved with the "My Brother's Keeper" initiative, please visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/my-brothers-keeper, where you can sign up to be a mentor in your community. You can also find additional resources and findings by reading through the President's My Brother's Keeper Task Force Report.
[Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.]