Forward Promise Overview

Improving the health and success of middle- and high-school-aged young men of color

    • September 17, 2012

Call for Proposals Overview

Forward Promise, a new $9.5 million initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is focused on promoting opportunities for the health and success of middle school- and high-school-aged boys and young men of color. Last year, the Foundation sought out the best ideas to help these young men succeed in life, school, and work, recognizing the limited positive options they have across most of these areas. Now, RWJF has issued a Call for Proposals that seeks innovative, community-based projects working to strengthen health, education, and employment outcomes for boys and young men of color.

The Challenge
Young people require support from their families, schools, communities, and society as they move toward becoming healthy and productive adults. This is especially true for middle school- and high school-aged boys and young men, many of whom encounter barriers that make the path to adulthood especially challenging.

Boys and young men of color are more likely to grow up in poverty, live in unsafe neighborhoods, and attend schools that lack the basic resources and supports that kids need in order to thrive. In addition, actions that might be treated as youthful indiscretions by other young men often are judged more severely and result in harsher punishments that have lasting consequences. Down the road, pathways to stable, productive employment can be limited.

Forward Promise seeks promising programs, projects, and approaches that will help young men of color grow up healthy, obtain a good education, and find meaningful employment. We chose middle school- and high school-aged males of color because the experiences and decisions they confront during these years have such profound effects on their health and well-being over the course of their lives.

What We Are Seeking
Through October 10, 2012, RWJF is actively seeking proposals from innovative programs that offer a promising path to greater success for young men of color. Our approach to this process has been informed by research and the more than 300 submissions that we received from the Call for Ideas we hosted last year. We will award up to 10 Forward Promise Innovation Grants of up to $500,000 each for projects with preliminary evidence of impact in the following areas:

  • Alternative approaches to harsh school discipline that do not push students out of school;
  • Solutions that focus on dropout prevention and increasing middle school retention and high school graduation rates;
  • Mental health interventions that tailor approaches to boys and young men who have experienced and/or been exposed to violence and trauma; or
  • Career training programs that blend workforce and education emphases to ensure that students are college- and career-ready.

Successful applicants will work in the domains of health, education, and employment and understand that partnerships and holistic approaches are vital to sustainable impact. Applicants should also be poised for growth and/or replication and demonstrate transformative potential. Further details on eligibility, RWJF’s areas of interest, and other aspects of this solicitation can be found in the full Call for Proposals. Thank you in advance for your interest and for sharing this funding opportunity with others.

To Apply
Download the full Call for Proposals.

The Forward Promise Forum

For more information - including updates from Program Officer Maisha Simmons - visit the Forward Promise Forum. Please note: You must register at to be able to access the community.

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