Grantee Spotlight

My Brother's Keeper Houston

In September 2014, President Obama issued a challenge to cities and towns across the country to identify specific challenges affecting millions of boys and young men of color. Mayor Annise Parker accepted the President's challenge in the same month and appointed Stephen L. Williams, Director of the Houston Health Department, to lead the effort for the city. Together with partners from the education, health, social services, employment, justice, faith-based and community sectors, My Brother's Keeper (MBK) Houston is building the framework of evidence-based practices and community resources so that all children succeed in life from cradle to career. Aligned with this vision, MBK Houston established six milestones to success, with corresponding strategies and interventions to improve the quality of life for youth of color:

  • Entering school ready to learn
  • Reading at grade level by 3rd grade
  • Graduating high school ready for college or career
  • Completing post-secondary education or training
  • Entering the workforce successfully
  • Reducing crime and violence and providing second chance opportunities

The MBK Houston Movement has been making great strides to implement its Local Action Plan that was launched in May 2015 with a laser focus on enabling youth of color in three communities to reach their full potential. There are twenty-nine schools across the Kashmere, Wheatley, and Scarborough communities, including twenty elementary schools, five middle schools, and four high schools serving over 17,000 youth of color. All of these schools face tremendous challenges and will require community-wide support to help bridge academic, social, and emotional disparities that prevent youth of color from entering the workplace equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to sustain long-term success and to become productive citizens in society.

Since the launch of the local action plan, the MBK Houston team has accomplished many victories that include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Consolidated implementation plans from all six milestone action teams
  • Formed area action teams in all three communities
  • Established an early warning system (EWS) and systems of care (SOC) model
  • Conducted several door-to-door outreach events that reached approximately 10,000 residents
  • Developed and implemented the MBK Houston marketing and communication plan
  • Built out two of the three community resource centers to support information and referral services
  • Launched the MBK Volunteer Partnership Network
  • Assisted 344 out of 562 youth obtain summer employment in partnership with McDonalds

In light of these achievements, Houston was one of the MBK Communities* invited to share their best practices and progress at the national MBK convening in Washington, DC last June 2-3. Stephen Williams, Director, Judy Harris, Chief of Staff, and Terry Bell, President of Rockwell Fund, met with White House MBK staffers and representatives of other MBK participant cities to exchange information and ideas about the implementation of MBK on a national scale. 

Additionally, Houston is proud to be a strong contender in the Becoming a Man (BAM) expansion. BAM is an evidence-based mentoring program developed by Youth Guidance that was launched to help young men navigate difficult circumstances that threaten their future. In June 2016, researchers from the University of Chicago Crime Lab released new findings from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluating the impact of BAM during the 2013-15 academic years. The researchers found that BAM reduced violent crime arrests by 50 percent, reduced total arrests by 35 percent, and improved school engagement for male Chicago Public Schools students. In a long-term follow-up to the Crime Lab's first study of BAM during the 2009-10 academic year, researchers found that BAM increased on-time high school graduation rates by 19 percent. The Crime Lab estimates that BAM's benefits far outweigh the program costs, with up to $30 in societal gains for every $1 invested in the program from realized reductions in crime alone. Crime Lab researchers believe the economic returns of BAM may ultimately be even higher when accounting for the increased earning potential of a high school graduate. If MBK Houston is selected as a BAM expansion site, it will roll out the program at Wheatley High School in the greater Fifth Ward community.

Looking forward, MBK Houston plans to roll out the EWS/SOC model this August at Bruce Elementary School, Fleming Middle School, and Wheatley High School with a specific target on grades K, 3-6, and 9. While all children, despite race or gender, will have access to universal services such as medical homes, caring adults, enrichment programs, and behavioral support systems, these targeted grade levels will have additional supports based on assessed need. Wraparound services and intensive case management, as well as emergency assistance and medical/mental health stabilization, will be available through licensed social workers and therapists from Houston Health Department, Harris County Adult and Child Protective Services, Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, Communities in Schools as well as staff from the Houston Independent School District. The ultimate purpose of the EWS/SOC is to provide support systems to both the child and the family.

Investing in our city's youth will ensure Houston's prosperity. Investments of time, energy, and resources must continue to be made in education, health, employment, and various other fields, which intersect to support the growth of individuals, families, and communities. The Houston Health Foundation, which works closely with the Houston Health Department to help bring valuable health services to the families of Houston's under-served communities, is expanding its development focus to not only increase awareness of this critical investment need but to also raise additional public and private funds that can support a variety of evidence-based programs and service delivery models.

Rockwell Fund, Inc.'s (RFI) initial support of MBK Houston was a grant made last spring to the Houston Health Foundation for funds to help publicize the incredible amount of work that has gone into MBK Houston. RFI, along with a number of other Houston funders, is supporting MBK Houston's pending application to become a BAM expansion site beginning in 2017.

*Attending MBK Communities: New York, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Indianapolis, Oakland, Baltimore, Boston, Fulton County, Los Angeles, and Long Beach.


MBK Picture 1

Noel Pinnock, MBK Coordinator, congratulates Giovanni Johnson, Kashmere High School Class of 2015 Valedictorian.

MBK Logos