City of Burlington Accepts President Obama's My Brother's Keeper Challenge


May 19, 2016
Contact:  Jennifer Kaulius


City of Burlington Accepts President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Challenge
Convenes summit with local community partners to launch MBK Burlington

Burlington, VT – At a local action summit in Contois Auditorium Wednesday morning, Mayor Miro Weinberger joined community leaders working with Burlington teens in announcing the City of Burlington’s acceptance of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Challenge. My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) is a White House cradle to career initiative President Obama launched in 2014 to address opportunity gaps facing American youth, particularly boys and young men of color. Since its launch, nearly 250 cities and towns across the country have accepted the President’s call to action.

“The City of Burlington is proud to answer the President’s call to action by launching an MBK community in Vermont,” said Mayor Weinberger. “We know that people of color and low-income Burlingtonians are more likely to experience racism, discrimination, underemployment, low education, poor health outcomes, and more limited access to resources and opportunities. MBK is about recognizing these challenges and marshalling a community effort to address the inequities that stand in the way of all our youth reaching their full potential.”

The Mayor thanked all of the individuals in the room for the important work they do in the community and the impact they have made in the lives of young Burlingtonians, and emphasized the importance of engaging and hearing from youth as the initiative takes shape in the coming months.

Yesterday’s summit attendees included leadership and representatives working with teens from the Burlington School District, Partnership for Change, Boys & Girls Club of Burlington, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront, Sara Holbrook Community Center, the Burlington Police Department, Parents and Youth for Change, King Street Center, Greater Burlington YMCA, Vermont Adult Learning, Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, Champlain College, YouthBuild, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the Chittenden County State’s Attorney, among numerous others.

The White House has identified six cradle to career milestones and goals for MBK communities to consider focusing on. At Wednesday’s event, the conversation focused on the middle school and high school years, and specifically the following two overarching goals to ensure that all youth are:

  • Graduating from high school ready for college, job training, or career; and
  • Staying on track, safe from violence, and provided second chances.


Burlington School District Superintendent Yaw Obeng spoke to the inequities present in the School District and City relating to these gaps: “The data on our vulnerable youth is undeniable. Closing the achievement gap will take more than academic interventions. An initiative like My Brother’s Keeper will allow us to also address the critical social and emotional domains that set the foundation for learning.”

The summit marked the first step and first conversation in understanding all of the work being done in the community and what resources are available to support Burlington’s teens, and also what gaps remain. Attendees participated in an asset mapping activity to identify the connections between the different organizations and groups in the room and services provided. Presentations also were given to highlight new programming and related efforts in the community, including restorative justice reform in the School District, Spectrum’s Multicultural Youth Program, and the UVM Wellness Environment’s Mentoring Program.

MBK has become a movement across the nation that has led to action by all levels of government, by schools, nonprofits, universities and colleges, the private sector, and individuals to take meaningful steps toward improving the lives of children and young adults. A focal point of the summit discussion was the importance of youth adult partnership and engaging youth and the broader community moving forward.

"I believe that together, if we look at what we need to do to address inequities outside of school, if we listen closely to youth and families struggling in the current system, and if we build trust and relationships, we will be able to co-create the solutions to ensure that all of our youth are on the path to college and career-readiness and to leading lives of dignity, hope, and meaning," said Dawn Moskowitz, Program Director at Voices for Vermont's Children. 

“Youth voice is very powerful,” said Hal Colston, Director of the Partnership for Change and one of the moderators of the summit. “I look forward to what’s next in this process – a youth-led gathering where adults in partnership may learn our youth’s truth. Not about us without us.”

The next steps in this effort will include youth engagement, the creation of an MBK Task Force with community and youth representatives, and a report on the existing policies, programs, and opportunity gaps facing Burlington’s teens, as well as recommendations for action.

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