Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Announces Grants to Aid Boys and Young Men of Color in Rural, South and Southwest

    • September 9, 2014
A mentor helps a teenage student with his homework.

Princeton, N.J.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), in partnership with Public Interest Projects, announced a package of new grants to promote opportunity and health for young men of color in rural communities in the South and Southwest. The grants of $415,000 each are a compliment to the Foundation’s $11.5 million Forward Promise initiative to improve the health and success of middle school and high school boys and young men of color.

The new grants, known as Forward Promise Catalyst grants, will provide funds to regional philanthropies, each of which will contribute their own matching dollars. The regional funding partners will, in turn, invest in local partners working directly with young men of color in their region. Public Interest Projects will provide strategic and technical assistance and help to manage the overall initiative.

In the South, the new funding will seek to expand opportunities for African-American young men while in the Southwest, the focus will be on Latino and Native American young men. The Catalyst Grant program will also enable regions to identify best practices for engaging young men of color in rural communities.

“If we want to build a Culture of Health for young men of color in America, we cannot ignore rural communities,” said Maisha Simmons, RWJF program officer.

“Young men of color in rural communities face a different set of barriers to opportunity, especially because resources like schools and jobs are not centralized,” she added. “These grants are specifically designed to help rural communities to build capacity and work together to address those challenges.”

The Catalyst grant program adds even more momentum to a growing movement to expand opportunities for young men of color. Yet, this initiative is also unique in that it represents the nation’s largest private investment in young men of color in rural communities and includes the largest targeted investment in Latino and Native American young men to date.  

“We are pleased to partner with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to expand opportunities for boys and young men of color in critical regions of our country. The Catalyst grants are an innovative, forward thinking approach that goes beyond traditional grantmaking,” said Berta Colón, President of Public Interest Projects.

RWJF launched Forward Promise in 2012 as part of its commitment to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to life a healthy life and the resources to make healthy choices. The initiative focuses on young men of color because they 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. These community grants represent the third and final round of funding through Forward Promise.

Learn more about the new grants and previous Forward Promise grants.


About Public Interest Projects

Founded in 1983, Public Interest Projects works with donors who share a vision and commitment to creating a society that ensures justice, dignity and opportunity for all people. Public Interest Projects offers expert advice and an array of professional services to help donors translate their ideas into a strategic giving plan that reflects their values, and is designed to achieve maximum impact. We partner with individuals and institutions that are inspired to share their ideas to create sustainable social change. In the last 11 years alone we have strategically invested $174.6 million to strengthen the social justice infrastructure across the country.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. 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