Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Awards $5 Million to Advance Efforts Improving Health and Success of Young Men of Color

    • July 17, 2013

Princeton, N.J.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced grants of approximately $500,000 each to 10 organizations through Forward Promise, its $9.5 million initiative to improve the health and success of boys and young men of color. Grantees were selected for their innovative, community-based programs that strengthen health, education, and employment outcomes for middle school and high school-aged boys and young men.

“So much of our health is shaped by forces beyond the doctor’s office that are rooted in where we live, learn, work, and play. Far too many boys and young men of color become disconnected from school and work opportunities, undermining their ability to live healthy lives and strengthen their communities,” said Maisha Simmons, RWJF program officer. “These Forward Promise grantees have developed innovative models that are helping youth from diverse backgrounds overcome significant challenges. We’re excited to work with these organizations to boost their impact and create a new future of hope for America’s young men of color.”

RWJF launched Forward Promise in 2012 to address the fact that 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 for boys and young men of color.

Statistics reflect these troubling trends: 44 percent of Latino males and 46 percent of African American males do not have a high school diploma, and Latino youth are two times more likely and African-American youth are five times more likely to be involved with the juvenile justice system than their white counterparts.

RWJF is investing in best practices and successful models around the nation that can be strengthened and spread to help even more boys and young men of color. Funded organizations each will receive 30-month grants to advance work in one or more of the following areas to improve outcomes for African-American, Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, and/or Native American young men: 1) school discipline approaches that do not push students out of school; 2) early interventions that focus on dropout prevention and increasing middle school retention and high school graduation rates; 3) mental health solutions tailored to young men who have been exposed to violence and trauma; 4) and career-training programs that address both education and employment to ensure that youth are college- and career-ready.

Some examples:

  • In Albuquerque, N.M., the Native American Community Academy fosters the success of boys by pairing them with male mentor teachers through their six years of study, offering integrative programs that strengthen students’ physical, mental, emotional, and social health.
  • East Baltimore Development Inc. in Maryland aims to reduce anger and depression and strengthen coping skills by addressing the trauma and violence that boys in fifth through eighth grade may have experienced in their community. The organization also works with parents to remove barriers to academic achievement.
  • The Clayton County, Ga., juvenile justice and school systems are working together to drastically reduce school arrests and suspensions and boost graduation rates from 58 percent to 82 percent.

“While the challenges facing young men of color are real and pressing, the good news is that there are successful programs and practices around the country that help put these young men on a better path to adulthood,” said Jorge Ruiz de Velasco, JD, PhD, director of education at the Earl Warren Institute at UC Berkeley’s School of Law and Forward Promise Advisory Committee chairman. “We are proud to announce a slate of grantees that represent working models we are confident can be brought to scale around the country.”

Through Forward Promise, RWJF also awarded a two-year, $700,000 grant to the Center for Law and Social Policy to promote federal, state, and local policies that yield sustainable gains for young men of color and remove systemic barriers to their success and well-being.

RWJF’s Forward Promise investments complement commitments from a growing network of funders to secure a stronger future for the nation’s boys and young men of color. This past April, RWJF signed an unprecedented pledge of action with 25 other foundation leaders to improve the life chances of these young men.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change.

For more than 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.

For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at



Media Contacts

Melissa Blair

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-5937

Additional Media Contact: Debi Kar

(415) 901-0111 x207

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