California's largest healthcare foundation Wednesday announced a $50-million initiative to support minority boys and young men, saying the odds against their succeeding in school and in future careers were staggering.
The California Endowment said the seven-year project would aim to boost attendance 30% in targeted schools, reduce by half the number of those suspended, train campus police on the effect of trauma on students, establish conflict-resolution programs in 10 communities, develop 1,000 youth leaders and make sure all eligible children have health coverage.
Foundation President Robert K. Ross said those goals were based on research showing that poor third-grade reading scores, chronic absenteeism, school suspensions and truancy in early grades were reliable warning signs that students were "losing hope and headed for trouble."
Such students are disproportionately minority boys and young men, he said.
Among African American males, for instance, more than 80% cannot read at grade level by third grade — a key marker of high school graduation. They are also 30 times more likely to be suspended from school in Los Angeles than are white girls.
And with 70% of Californians under age 25 identifying as non-white, Ross said, the state's future depends on better preparing minority young men for success.
"We are losing too many precious young lives," Ross said.
The foundation will favor proposals offering public-private community partnerships, Ross said, adding that he hoped that grants would be used to help minority youth tap into health and educational services available through Obamacare and the new state school finance system, which distributes extra dollars to districts for students who are low-income, not fluent in English and in foster care.
One grant recipient, the educational nonprofit L.A.'s Promise, is working at Manual Arts High School to increase attendance and reduce suspensions. The two-year, $200,000 grant will help pay for a new conflict resolution initiative, college field trips, a second social worker and a parent coordinator to work with families to encourage better attendance and behavior, said the organization's president, Veronica Melvin.
Other recipients so far include Community Coalition and Brotherhood Crusade — who fanned out with L.A.'s Promise, L.A. Unified School District officials and others Wednesday to look for truant students and encourage them to return to school. And InnerCity Struggle, an East L.A. nonprofit, has received $300,000 to organize students and parents to push for more preventive and less punitive disciplinary measures at two Boyle Heights high schools.
The foundation's focus on minority boys and young men, called the "Sons & Brothers" campaign, is part of its larger, $1- billion plan to assist in rebuilding healthier communities in Boyle Heights, South L.A., Long Beach, Santa Ana and 10 other locations statewide.
A state Assembly subcommittee has also launched a "Boys and Men of Color" initiative and held hearings on the issue throughout California in 2011 and 2012.