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President Barack Obama talks about Ukraine while in the press briefing room at the White House in Washington, July 16, 2014. (REUTERS/Larry Downing) President Barack Obama talks about Ukraine while in the press briefing room at the White House in Washington, July 16, 2014. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)  

Obama Announces More Funding For Program For Minority Men

President Obama announced Monday major growth in his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, an endeavor that seeks to improve life outcomes for young minority men.

A series of new public/private partnerships, including one with the National Basketball Association, will add over $100 million to the new program, the White House announced, in addition to $200 million in earlier philanthropic commitments.

Sixty school districts, representing about 40 percent of all impoverished black, Hispanic and Native American boys, have decided to join up with the program. They will commit to efforts such as offering expanded preschool programs and matching young men with mentors with the hope to improving the academic outcomes of young men.

Accompanying the districts joining up are a bevy of corporate sponsors, both for- and non-profit. The NBA and its players association will be investing funds to match young minority men with 25,000 adult mentors in the effort to guide them to success.

AT&T, meanwhile, will be putting $18 million of its own funds toward mentoring programs, while the Emerson Collective, a non-profit founded by billionaire Steve Jobs’s widow Laurene Powell Jobs, will be putting up $50 million to facilitate the design of next-generation high schools.

“My Brother’s Keeper” was originally announced in February, and is part of a package of small efforts launched by the president in an effort to work around Congress.

The president announced the expansion while speaking at a public town hall event in Washington, D.C., where he fielded questions about his own experiences growing up as a black youth in a single-parent household.

“You’re where I was 40, 35 years ago,” the president said to the crowd. ”When I was your age, most of my goals revolved around basketball.” Only at age 20, Obama said, did he come to realize the importance of studying. If he hadn’t had a supportive family environment, he said, he could have ended up a failure in life.

The president said his goal is to “even up the odds” to allow today’s young minority men to have the success he did. However, he emphasized that success could only be had if young men embraced the value of hard work and intellectual pursuits.

“There is no reason you should expect to be a good reader if you don’t read a lot,” he said. Obama also emphasized that minority men should be proud of their unique heritages without allowing it to become self-destructive. He denounced the trend of studious or well-spoken black men being accused of “acting white.”

“That has to go. There are a whole bunch of ways to be authentic,” said Obama.

Black, Hispanic and Native American boys are among America’s most vulnerable demographic groups, with lower levels of high school graduation and academic proficiency, coupled with a greater likelihood of winding up in prison or being a victim of violent crime.

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