Orlando City Commissioners watched a video Monday showing elementary school boys describing their community with comments like, “I come from a place that’s the bottom” and “There’s no place to go but up.”

The video was made in 2014 when the city started the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative after former President Barack Obama urged cities across the nation to join in addressing the persistent opportunity gaps faced by young men of color.

The program, run through the city’s parks and recreation department, has created a cradle to college academic program in the Parramore district. It has increased both academic scores and employment and reduced incarceration rates for youth in the Parramore district, which has Orlando’s highest poverty and crime rates.

The area has seen a 74 percent drop in juvenile arrests during the past decade, according to Lisa Early, director of the parks and recreation department. Parramore also has witnessed a 39 percent decline in juvenile arrests at the five high schools and one middle school where students participate in MBK. Also, there has been a 70 percent drop in teenage pregnancies.

Out of the city’s $30 million annual budget, the parks department spends $4.46 million on MBK, about half of that money comes from grant funding.

MBK links mentors and AmeriCorps volunteers with the youth in after school programs throughout the district. A jobs program helped employ 805 youth between the ages of 15 and 25 and 619 of the jobs were working with city staff.

The youth have taken trips to visit Kennedy Space Center and colleges in both Florida and North Carolina. Orlando also sponsors an Annual College Decision Day, where high school seniors from the area announce their college picks.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer declared Monday as “My Brother’s Keeper Day” and added it’s “nice that we have measurable results” to ensure the program is working.

About The Author

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

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