Inspired by the idea that closing the education gap for disadvantaged students can help bridge gaps in economic opportunities, a new program in D.C. schools aims to prepare young men of color for whatever comes after high school.
The program launching in Wards 5, 6, 7 and 8 is a partnership combining Youth Guidance’s Becoming a Man (BAM) program with JPMorgan Chase’s The Fellowship Initiative (TFI).
It will “provide a seamless four-year experience for Black and brown boys in the District of Columbia,” Youth Guidance DC Executive Director Rasheem Rooke said. “It’ll start with small group circles, doing social, emotional, learning work with the young men, and then it will transition into work on college and career readiness, leadership development, community service, civic engagement; making sure they have resources for mental health and well-being.”
TFI launched in 2010 and has matched more than 350 high school Fellows in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Houston and Oakland, California, with JPMorgan Chase mentors. In 2020, TFI committed to expanding the program to 1,000 more Fellows nationally over the next 10 years.
The mentor experiences are open to those with interests beyond finance and banking. They also include, for example, people looking to get into music, digital design or enter the military.
“So long as you have the drive for success and that desire to succeed — you’re a good fit for the program,” said Sagid Mohamed, a TFI Fellow who now is a sophomore at Howard University.
Mohamed said the program is hard, but it’s worth it.
“It may seem like a lot when you’re waking up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday to get dressed, put on a suit, get on New York City transit, get all the way down to Manhattan and sit there for hours on end when you, as a high schooler, as a teenager, could really be doing anything else,” he said.
“But it’s really about knowing where you’re going in the end. You know that in the end, this will give me the connections and the opportunities and the ability to really succeed. And I think that’s much more important than anything that you have to sacrifice.”
During a Wednesday news conference announcing the launch of the program, Howard University President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick said the school will provide full scholarships to four D.C. students a year who complete the program and are accepted into the university.
The four participating high schools are Eastern High School in Ward 6, H.D. Woodson High School in Ward 7, Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Ward 8 and Dunbar High School in Ward 5, where principal Nadine Smith is excited about upcoming opportunities for her students.
“A lot of this work is ultimately about self-determination and our students having the tools to be able to decide how they move forward in their future,” Smith said.