Trumbull and Mahoning counties join President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program
By Ed Runyan
The Youngstown-Warren area is joining 200 other communities in the United States with a President Barack Obama-inspired “My Brother’s Keeper” program.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and the mayors of Youngstown and Warren participated in an announcement at Kent State University at Trumbull on Monday to talk about it.
Brown, who has promoted the idea in Ohio, said the foundation of the program is that “no matter our gender or our race, our neighborhood or our ZIP code, we all had somebody in our lives, sometimes for good, sometimes not so good, but we had people who had influence in our lives.”
Obama, as part of his legacy after he leaves the White House, “wants to keep his idea of My Brother’s Keeper alive,” Brown said.
Mentoring programs such as Inspiring Minds in Warren and Youngstown and Big Brothers Big Sisters “are so important for young people” Brown said.
Ohio has the most Brother’s Keeper programs in the nation, with ones already in Cleveland, Columbus, Mansfield, Lorain/Elyria, Akron/Canton, Dayton, Toledo and soon in Cincinnati.
Its focus is different in various states, but in Ohio, it’s target audience is mostly on mentoring black boys. “There’s always kids that need help, especially when we’re aiming it at the seventh and eighth grade, to bring them along so they make good choices,” Brown said.
Brown quoted 19th-cenry black leader Frederick Douglass, who said “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Ryan said that educational research indicates that about 75 percent of what young kids learn comes from modeling what they see in others.
“They watch you; and they see you; and they walk like you; and they talk like you; and they say things you say because we are wired to learn from the people we are around. We are social beings. That’s how we made it this far.”
“We have to now in order to shift things and give young people opportunity, we need to provide modeling or mentorship, and that’s what we’re here to honor and to celebrate,” Ryan said.
There is no money provided to the community because of the program, but Brown met with a roundtable of mentors and mentees leading up to Monday’s announcement to discuss the creation of such programs and to expand on existing ones.
Stephanie Shaw, executive director of the Eastern Ohio Educational Partnership, which has an office at Kent State University at Trumbull, said the focus of the Trumbull County program during several meetings so far has been on encouraging the existing mentoring programs to work together and expand their efforts.
For example, the existing programs are sharing with each other what has worked the best for them and educating each other on what they are doing, she said.
Nearly 30 Youngstown City School District students joined the kickoff celebration. Krish Mohip, Youngstown City Schools’ chief executive officer, and Timothy Filipovich, executive director of teaching and learning, attended Monday’s event along with sixth, seventh and eighth graders from Discovery at Volney, Rayen Early College Middle School, Discovery at Kirkmere and Chaney.
Youngstown Mayor John McNally said Guy Burney, Community Initiative to Reduce Violence coordinator, will coordinate the Mahoning County efforts.