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Experiential Learning Program for African American Boys Kicks-Off on the Citys Southside

By Ashley Wilson | Communications Coordinator, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and
Ethnicity
Edited by Alex Rostorfer
On September 10 2014, friends, families, and representatives from a wide range of industries
gathered to celebrate the launch of More Than My Brothers Keeper, an innovative pilot program
for African American boys funded through Franklin County Department of Job and Family
Services.
What is More Than My Brothers Keeper?
As its name indicates, More Than My Brothers Keeper takes inspiration from the My Brothers
Keeper Initiative, launched nationally by President Obama in February of 2014. Franklin
County is beginning to come to terms with the overwhelming breadth and scope of the disparities
faced by young boys and men of color. The poverty rate for the two zip codes within the
programs geographic boundaries (43206 & 43207) is at 59% for African American male
adolescents (ages 6-14). Additionally, these areas experience a disproportionately high amount
of the countys overall rate of gun violence and homicides by firearm. If anywhere is primed for
an investment in its people, it is here in Columbus, Ohio.
The 24-month programmatic design included curriculum to address soft- and hard skill
development through a series of immersive and capacity-building experiences. Additionally, the
programs family engagement component recognized that the success of these boys in many
ways is predicated on the success of the family. Extension of services and programming to the
entire family is a key feature of this pilot program.
In response to this state of need, Anthony Trotman, Director of Franklin County Job and Family
Services, committed himself to creating the program that would give new opportunities to these
young men.
I am proud to have obtained the support of the Franklin County Commissioners to pursue this
exciting new initiative, More Than My Brothers Keeper. Through my engagement in the
community, particularly with young African-American males, Ive seen first-hand the challenges
they face. This program will equip them with the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to
successfully navigate these challenges, and achieve their hopes, dreams and aspirations, said
Trotman.
Program Details
As a pilot program, More Than My Brothers Keeper connects with 25+ boys and their families.
Over the last eight months, the pilot has enrolled participants in after-school programming,

hosted over twenty Saturday experiential learning opportunities at local businesses and
institutions, engaged mentoring, and begun work on the digital storytelling component of the
pilot. In addition, several parents with boys in the program have completed a survey course
designed to help them address systemic, and individual barriers to success. The following
organizations, businesses and institutions have committed themselves to partnering with the
program:

Boys and Girls Club


Big Brothers Big Sisters
Legal Aid Society
Buckeye Leadership Fellows
Discover
The Furniture Bank
Directions 4 Youth & many others

Under the direction of program partners, the boys spend their weekdays in after-school
programming, and every Saturday they will report for experiential learning workshops, with
guided journaling activities to follow. By rearticulating relationships and networks in new and
efficient ways, the pilot is able to capture the momentum of Franklin Countys passionate and
empowered citizenry! Together, anything is possible.
Short & Long-term Goals
The boys feel like theyre the lucky ones to be in this
The programs short-term goals include project, and in many ways theyre right. Weve been
maintaining a high level of engagement
working hard to develop dynamic and exciting
and interaction with the boys and their
months worth of programming for them. On the
families, successful delivery of
other hand though, those of us who serve as
educational and motivational activities
stewards of the program are just as lucky. The
that will build their cognitive, social
and life skills, as well as connect them brilliance of these boys is constantly on display.
to the many positive examples and
assets that exist in our community. Long-term, partners hope to see improved academic and
personal development in the boys, as well as connections and confidence that will lead them in
the direction of high school graduation and continued success. Outside of the direct impact on
boys, success of this initiative strengthens the likelihood of replication in other Columbus
communities, in other cities around the nation, and for other demographics in need of such
attention.
The path out of the situations facing our boys and their families is not always clear. The
challenges they face have long histories and deep complexity. Given the local and national
landscape facing boys of color, one thing is exceedingly clear we have to think differently
about how we develop and educate these boys. By focusing on out of school activity to affect in

school outcomes, the pilot hopes to provide a different model for pathways to success for the
participants.
For more information about More Than My Brothers Keeper, or if interested in volunteering,
mentoring or submitting an applicant for participation, please contact Program Director Charles
Noble at cnoble.99@gmail.com or visit www.kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/mybrotherskeeper.