President Barack Obama walks with mentees on the South Lawn of the White House, Oct. 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

My Brother’s Keeper is rooted in the belief that every young man in America should have the chance to succeed — no matter where he comes from or what circumstances he was born into.

Since President Obama launched MBK in 2014, communities across all 50 states and 19 tribal nations have taken on the challenge of breaking down the obstacles that prevent young men of color from reaching their true potential.

These are the stories of young men who, with the support of the MBK mentors and community leaders who believed in them, found pathways toward overcoming their obstacles and achieving their dreams.

Kevin, 17, Hyattsville, MD

Kevin, 17, Hyattsville, MD

Growing up my family wasn’t the wealthiest and even struggled with money, but my mother always made ends meet. Seeing this motivated me to grab every opportunity. MBK has helped shape the way I am preparing for my future by introducing me to things and people I never would have met like NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and even President Barack Obama.

MBK has provided me with insight on how to create and sustain a successful life in the future and challenged me to teach what I’ve learned to my peers at school. Before joining MBK, I was very shy and wasn’t very social and these experiences cracked my shell. It has helped me to step up and give back to my community through my JROTC program, take on leadership positions, and even participate in more volunteer work.

Noah, 19, Atlanta, GA

Noah, 19, Atlanta, GA with President Barack Obama

I attended 10 different middle schools and switched high schools three times during my freshman year. It was hard to mature and grow as much as other students. Thankfully Dr. Henry, a high school teacher and mentor, was there to help me through and get me back on track. I went from being one of the worst students to being an example for other students by the time I graduated. Now, as I approach 20 years old and am a student at Morehouse College, I realize that if I overcame these challenges, I can conquer anything! I do not put a limit on what God can do for me!

My Brother’s Keeper gave me the resources I needed to succeed and showed me there are people out there, like President Obama, working to help young men of color through the issues that they face. I now have confidence in a world where minority youth are often forgotten.

Josiah, 17, Bethesda, MD

Josiah, 17, Bethesda, MD

When school started last year I was crumbling from anxiety, and I was also pretty immature. I was failing every single one of my classes. My parents had to miss work for a meeting with the Vice Principal and all my teachers. I was ashamed to have to tell my two mentors at MBK. I like to think of it as a learning experience. I ended up passing all my classes. I was given a lot of support through this time. I’m new to MBK, but I’ve already been inspired by seeing how hard my mentors work. It’s important to me that the next generation has access to mentorship like I’ve have had.

Moving to Maryland after living in Montana, where I spent years on the Flathead Indian Reservation, has had a very positive impact on me and has really changed my worldview. I really try to appreciate everything I have and what my life has to offer.

Akeem, 28, Philadelphia, PA

Akeem, 28, Philadelphia, PA

I grew up with my grandparents and three of eight siblings in Atlantic City, NJ. I witnessed a lot of verbal, alcohol, and physical abuse as a child. I was the first in my family to graduate college and really struggled at the beginning. I had a 1.4 GPA freshmen year before learning the necessary steps to achieve a 3.4 GPA by senior year.

I went on to get a Master’s Degree only to find myself homeless for months after. I knew I wanted to give motivational speeches and the MBK Philly Summit allowed me to do this. Since then, I’ve created websites for my speaking platform as well as for my Youth Empowerment Program. MBK Philly means a lot to me because the leaders support our young people.

Malachi, 18, Boston, MA

Malachi, 18, Boston, MA

I remember the President asking me and a group of young males how he could help us, and I said, “What about love?” I grew up without a father in a low-income home, and I knew the President also didn’t have his father around so I was wondering how he made it through. A week later, I made contact with my dad and began a new relationship.

I was once very timid to be on stage simply because all eyes were on me. Little did I know that MBK would soon become the pathway to me overcoming my fear of public speaking. In December 2014, I gave my first keynote at James P. Timilty Middle School at Boston’s first-ever MBK Summit. I spoke about some of my life challenges, what mentoring means to me, and concluded with my vision for the city through the lens of an up-and-coming leader.

My voice eventually made waves, resulting in opportunities to speak at the White House MBK National Convening, join President Obama for an MBK panel, and be interviewed by CNN to discuss MBK.

Oscar, 17, Silver Spring, MD

Oscar, 17, Silver Spring, MD

I moved from the Dominican Republic three years ago and didn’t know English. Now my siblings and I only speak English at home. I’ve been helping my little brother and my sister with their homework every night. Since MBK, I’ve been challenging myself by taking honors classes. I never thought I’d ever visit the White House or meet President Obama. My siblings look up to me; I want to keep doing better so they do better, too.

I think it’s valuable to mentor for the next generation because they are the ones who will fix the mistakes of the past. We must encourage them just as the older generation has encouraged us.

Cristian, 21, Compton, CA

Cristian, 21, Compton, CA

Coming from Compton, I was forced to grow up quicker than other kids. My biological father made it clear to my mother when I was in her womb that he wanted nothing to do with me. He never loved me nor was he in the picture. MBK has impacted my life in immeasurable ways.

The fact that President Obama cares about young men of color like me is mind blowing. The love he has shown has given me the hope I needed to press forward. It has also helped me realize the importance of becoming a man of God, a man of Integrity, and a man with a pure heart. Prior to MBK I dropped out of California State University Fullerton and fully convinced myself that I would never go back to school. Now I am attending community college to bring up my GPA.

I mentor other young men of color in my community who share the same struggles that I do, and did. I have pledged give back as much as I can for the rest of my life. Mayor Aja Brown recently appointed me to serve as the Vice Chair Person of the Community Relations commission for the City of Compton.

Travon, 17, Detroit, MI

Travon, 17, Detroit, MI

Being a part of the MBK program has allowed me to develop a good work ethic and exercise my speaking skills, as well as encouraged me to take on leadership roles. Since becoming a member, I have participated in community service projects throughout my neighborhood and traveled to Nicaragua to build a school for an impoverished village. I am also a Board member of a Youth Violence Prevention Program and was offered an internship in the Detroit Mayor’s office.

When the school year began, I ran for Senior Class President and President of the Student Council; I won both. Although my zip code is considered one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country, it has given me all the more initiative to be a positive force in my community.

My family has assisted and supported my decision to attend the University of Michigan Ann Arbor this fall. After graduation, I plan to return to my city to start effective youth programs for African-American teens. My hope and dream is to change this city for the better. The My Brother’s Keeper Program molded me into the leader I am today.

Ramon, 18, Silver Spring, MD

Ramon, 18, Silver Spring, MD

I grew up in a community that was good but could be better. My family encouraged me to help make my community better and after getting involved with MBK, I began volunteering at my local library and tutoring other students at school. As I prepare to go to college, my goal is to leave my community better than I found it. I am already close to reaching this goal as MBK has helped me become the person I am today.

I believe this program has taught me the characteristics of a good mentor. I think the President set a clear goal of what he wanted to see. It’s all about equal opportunity. He wants all of us, including people of different backgrounds and cultures, to be successful and represent the country well. I’ve learned that whoever you are you can achieve your goals and be successful. This experience has made me want to help other young people and has inspired me to encourage my peers to become mentors to younger students. It has also helped me gain confidence and defy statistics. I have learned that anyone can become a leader if they work hard.

Learn more about how My Brother’s Keeper is helping young people set a path for a brighter future.


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