MY BROTHER'S KEEPER: Graduates encourage mentorship, college - KMSP-TV

MY BROTHER'S KEEPER: Graduates encourage mentorship, college study

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Several Twin Cities programs that help young men of color could become duplicated across the country.

President Barack Obama launched the "My Brother's Keeper" initiative in late February as a way to close the achievement gap plaguing young minority men, and now they’re combing the country to prepare a massive scale-up of what’s been working.

"I got to meet a group of wonderful guys I will never forget in my life," Tommy Cooper of St. Paul told Fox 9 News.

Cooper and his friend Kalu Abosi are among the first graduates of St. Paul Central High School to complete a program called the African American Male Initiative, which begun in 2010.

"We had a certain day just to apply for college, I wouldn't have had time to do that if I was by myself,” Cooper reflected.

Now, both are college-bound to St. Cloud State University.

“I always wanted to go to college, but AAMI gave me the steps to get there,” Abosi added.

The program's success is what got Cooper on stage at the University of Minnesota, alongside President Eric Kaler, the mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and a deputy assistant to Obama.

"I was once told by a white man that I would never be nothing in life," Cooper told the audience.

The My Brother's Keeper initiative launched by Obama highlights that young men of color are more likely to get sent to detention for things that white children are not, and it starts as early as preschool.

"This is really quite personal because as a young man growing up, I never quite understood why it was I was followed around stores," said Roy Austin Jr, the Deputy Assistant to President Obama for the Office of Urban Affairs.

Austin highlighted the key areas that the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative is spotlighting, from helping young man get to college, down to helping pre-school kids prepare for learning, including eliminating detention and expulsion.

"We can't send kids to detention because of mistakes that they made then expect them to get back into school and catch up," Austin said.

In the process, Austin is speaking with organizers of successful programs to prepare a nation-wide assessment of what is working -- and the African American Male Initiative is one of them.

"I see kids my age on the street and stuff, and that could be me," Abosi reflected.

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