Edward Smith, ">

published on November 20, 2018 - 1:15 PM
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A Fresno-area organization is receiving grant money from the Obama Foundation to help boys and men of color succeed.

Youth Leadership Institute will receive $50,000 as a seed grant from My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, an initiative of the Obama Foundation, according to a press release from the foundation. The money will go toward developing a plan to “accelerate systemic change and removing barriers for boys and men of color, including by reforming the criminal and juvenile justice systems to prioritize prevention over punishment,” the release stated.

“We applaud the leaders, advocates and organizers who are taking action in each community to ensure California’s young people have access to the opportunities they need to succeed and lead,” said Dr. Robert K. Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, who is a partner with the Alliance. “We thank the Obama Foundation for this important investment to make real and transformative change possible for our youth.”

Support will be given to the Fresno Boys and Men of Color program run by Youth Leadership Institute, which they call BMofC, according to Tim Haydock, director of communications for the institute.

BMofC works as a training program for males age 14-24 to build leadership skills and opportunities so their voices can be heard in the civic process, Haydock said.

One of the more notable initiatives to be touched by BMofC was Measure P, a ballot initiative for the City of Fresno that would have added an additional sales tax to fund and expand recreational areas.

“They came to us saying parks are the No. 1 issue for young people,” Haydock said. “They started this conversation about parks four years ago.”

They have also worked on transportation issues in getting Wi-Fi on buses and “lead the charge for the City of Fresno to adopt a Fresno Youth Commission,” Haydock said.

The award comes in two-parts – both the money and assistance from the Obama Foundation will “sharpen their message so more people will know about us so we can make Fresno work for all of us, including its young men of color,” said Haydock.

Between 150 and 180 people have been through the program according to Sher Moua, program manager for YLI.

Fresno is among five other California communities that received grant money from the foundation. Sacramento, Oakland and Los Angeles were designated “impact communities” and will receive up to $500,000 each as part of a two-year “engagement.”

Richmond in Contra Costa County was designated similarly to Fresno and was given $50,000.

The organizations are seeking to reduce youth violence, grow effective mentorship programs and “measurably improve the lives of boys and young men of color,” the release went on to say.

Youth Leadership Institute is a statewide organization with a chapter in Fresno that came to the Central Valley in 2003. Alongside the chapter, both Irma Olguin, co-founder of Bitwise Industries and Phillip Martin Gonzalez, an instructor at Fresno State, serve as board members for the institution.

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