My Brother's Keeper: Raising student success and family engagement

By Emily Bramhall, 2018 2Gen Scholar

Travis Brooks heads the Ithaca My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) program through the Greater Ithaca Activities Center. Brooks and his team are taking the program’s original goal of raising the success and achievement levels of young men of color and driving it farther by addressing systemic issues that have traditionally blocked young men and women of color from opportunity.

In 2017, MBK, in partnership with the Ithaca City School District, received a state grant for family and community engagement geared towards all students of color from middle school through high school. They use this money to increase parental engagement in schools through parent meetings and planning sessions with teachers and principals. As Brooks says, “the idea is to help increase young people of color’s family engagement and by doing so you would increase their success in school.”

Community events play a key role in this goal. Brooks states, “for a lot of the young people we serve, we know that their family is not going to be engaged.” To bring together students, families, and school staff, MBK rented out a bowling alley for incoming high school freshman so that families could connect and develop relationships with the incoming administration. To grow their impact, Brooks says that MBK is working on developing tools to measure how many families they are reaching, and over the next four years of the grant, MBK will continue to address student success through the engagement of their families.

President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative in 2014 to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.

My Brother’s Keeper is focused on six milestones:

  • Getting a healthy start and entering school ready to learn
  • Reading at grade level by third grade
  • Graduating from high school ready for college and career
  • Completing post-secondary education or training
  • Successfully entering the workforce
  • Keeping kids on track and giving them second chances
PracticeEmily Bramhall