City, County Hold Public Forums To Assist At-Risk Young People

Sep 22, 2015

In September 2014, President Obama challenged cities to create "My Brother's Keeper" initiatives to increase opportunities for young black men.
Credit Official White House photo / Pete Souza

How Pittsburgh and Allegheny County can increase opportunities for boys and young men of color is the focus of two local forums this week.

“It has to be a full community response; we know the strength of the plan will be enhanced with that full involvement,” said Mary Esther Van Schura, the county’s director of community affairs.

In September 2014, President Barack Obama challenged elected officials in cities and counties to work with community partners to develop long-term, strategic programs to assist the life development of at-risk young people. The city and county are taking another step to implement a local version of Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

Last year, 100 individuals representing service centers, health care, education, the faith community, law enforcement, workforce development and youth leaders participated in a summit to determine the specific goals for Pittsburgh's My Brother's Keeper community.

Since then, a 16-member committee has been developing a plan around the three top needs for young men of color in the region: education, workforce development and police interaction.

The city and county are hosting forums Tuesday at the Kingsley Association in Larimer and Wednesday at the Allegheny County Housing Authority's Homestead Apartments community room to outline the preliminary action plan and get public reaction.

“To tell us how they can get involved and anything they feel we are missing,” said Latrenda Sherrill, deputy chief of operations in the mayor’s office. “We’re hoping to welcome all of this information and to figure out how to weave that into our process to truly make this a community effort.”

The My Brother’s Keeper plan could be finalized by the end of October. Sherrill said it must be actionable — people have “to step up” to implement it.

“It’s a comprehensive birth to career approach,” she says, “and truly trying to insure there is a support system in place for all youth.”

Inclusion is critical, Van Schura said, and not just for the My Brother's Keeper plan.

“When we talk about economic vitality of our region that it is open to all members of our community, that is the key," she said. "All of us coming together fusing our energies and making sure that everybody is part of that process.”