President Obama to launch new initiative to address challenges facing young black and Latino men

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News

President Obama will unveil this week a new program to address specific challenges facing black and Latino young men, who studies show are disproportionately unlikely to graduate from high school or attend and finish college.

In the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, which the White House has dubbed the program, the president will direct the federal government to look for ways to help minority boys and young men, such as a recent set of guidelines issued by the Department of Education that encourages schools to try to avoid suspending students, as minority males are often those who are removed from classrooms.

Obama will also announce a partnership with business leaders and foundations in which they will pledge to  develop and support programs around the country to help  minority students, White House officials said.

This program is modeled after a project started by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2011 called the Young Men’s Initiative. It also targeted black and Latino men and boys for extra help.

This new effort, which will include an event at the White House on Thursday, is an attempt to meet two of Obama’s goals. It’s part of his strategy this year to work around Congress and instead use business leaders and other officials to enact his policies. And the initiative fulfills the promise Obama made last year in his speech after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin to target some of his policies specifically to help young male black men.

More broadly, this initiative, like policy changes announced last year by the Obama administration to reduce drug sentencing disparities that disproportionately affect minorities, show a president who wants part of his legacy to be policies that benefit people of color and low-income Americans, two groups whose struggles Obama says motivated him to get into politics in the first place.

The initiative could address criticisms by black activists such as commentator Tavis Smiley, who argues African-Americans have twice voted overwhelmingly Obama, but he has done little in return to address the high jobless rate among  blacks.

White House officials would not say how much federal money would go into this new program.

Obama aides said that Thursday’s event would include boys from a Chicago-based group called “Becoming a Man.” The president has become an informal mentor to some of the students in this group, meeting with them in Chicago early last year and then inviting them to the White House. .