Do you believe in investing in the future of young people? In Detroit last week, A Gathering of Leaders (policymakers, philanthropic foundations and others) made me proud by collaborating to improve life opportunities for boys and young men of color.
These leaders know what is at stake is no less than our future. We have to make a decision: Will we invest in our youth so they can build and strengthen our communities, or will we allow them to become further disconnected from communities that already lack needed education and employment opportunities?
Simmons and Allen also introduce Stepha’N Quicksy, a young man in Detroit who overcame a culture of drugs, alcohol and crime to graduate high school and set his sights on college. Quicksy gave back by becoming a mentor with the Neighborhood Service Organization’s Youth Initiative Project, one of the successful models that A Gathering of Leaders is working to spread.
The barriers that young men of color face on the path to leading healthy, fulfilling lives are stubbornly high. Too often, they live in communities struggling with violence and instability. Unless we begin to solve these interwoven challenges, the health and well-being of these young men will be undermined throughout their lives.
I hope you’ll join me in committing to our young people. As Simmons and Allen call us to action in their commentary, "We have the power to transform the futures of our young men of color, but only if we make the right investments today to let their potential flourish."
The Reclaiming Futures model unites juvenile courts, probation, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and the community to reclaim youth. Together, we work to improve drug and alcohol treatment and connect teens to positive activities and caring adults. Call 503-725-8914, or visit www.reclaimingfutures, to learn more.
Susan Richardson is national executive director for Reclaiming Futures. Formerly, she was a senior program officer in the health care division of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in North Carolina, where she led a three-year effort involving the state’s juvenile justice and treatment leaders to adopt the Reclaiming Futures model by juvenile courts in six North Carolina counties. She received her B.S. in Public Health, Health Policy and Administration, from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.