Culver City accepts “My Brother’s Keeper” Challenge


Culver City has accepted a new challenge- one that comes straight from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington D.C. Last month, the White House announced that more than 100 mayors, tribal nations and county officials had accepted the idea of implementing an initiative called “My Brother’s Keeper” that encourages mayors and community leaders to develop strategies that will allow young people, particularly young minority men, to reach their full potential through academic enrichment and making their communities safer.

Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells is one of the 100 mayors and said the initiative embodies many of the same things that she wants to see for her constituents.

“After the White House contacted me, it became very clear to me that [the My Brother’s Keeper challenge] was aligned with my goals of making Culver City the best place that it could be,” Sahli-Wells said. “It seemed like a very good fit. When you make a good community for kids, you’re making it good for everyone.”

The six goals of the Brother’s Keeper Challenge are as follow: ensuring all children enter school cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally ready; ensuring all children read at grade level by third grade; ensuring all youth graduate from high school; ensuring all youth complete post-secondary education or training; ensuring all youth out of school are employed and ensuring all youth remain safe from violent crime.

“The challenge is not a new federal program, but rather a call to action for leaders of communities across the nation to build and execute comprehensive strategies,” wrote Elias Alcantera of the White House’s Intergovernmental Affairs in a letter to Sahli-Wells.

The Culver City Unified School District has a similar concept called Culver City Compact and CCUSD Superintendent David LaRose thinks the president’s initiative and Culver City’s complement each other.

“The challenge reflects a call for community engagement, partnerships and shared cooperation/responsibility to ensure all children succeed from cradle to career. This, essentially, is the call of our district touchstone ‘Success for All Takes Us All,’” La Rose explained. “It reflects our whole child whole community work and the goals of the challenge align with the goals of our Culver City Compact.

“Similar language and clearly a common vision for schools, families, businesses, elected officials and community agencies to work together and align/efforts and resources to ensure all children thrive and experience success before school, during school and after school,” LaRose said.

CCUSD school board member Suzanne Robins concurred with LaRose.

“I feel as though we in Culver City have already implemented many of the types of programs and initiatives that are part of the My Brothers Keeper programs,” Robbins said. “Most recently for example, our district has started a Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. I see [My Brother’s Keeper] as an excellent step toward improving the educational outcomes for our kids. I am particularly interested in seeing the results of the studies of existing programs so that we can all learn from each other regarding what works.”

Rebecca Rona–Tuttle, who headed a Culver City social justice organization called Together, said the name of the presidential initiative was “a strong reminder to all of us to help one another on an individual basis and also as a society.”

Sahli-Wells is planning to have community discussions on how best to implement the elements of “My Brother’s Keeper” soon.

Rona-Tuttle would like to see a substantial gathering of residents because she believes that Culver City has to recognize that there are certain inequities among people of different ethnicities.

“I’m hoping that a large cross section of Culver City will become involved in a number of significant ways to improve the opportunities for our young people of color in Culver City,” she said.

Conversations about inequities, even with the cavernous and still growing gap between the wealthy and the middle class as well as disparities in many schools throughout the nation are never easy but Sahli-Wells is ready to have them.

“In order to be a great city, we have to talk about things that we aren’t doing well as well as those that we’re doing well. I want us to be a great city,” the Mayor said.

The mayor also mentioned the city’s fire department, which has sustained a Class 1 rating for several years because of its willingness to look periodically at its internal framework to review where it could make improvements.

“I’m hoping that this process these community discussions will be a lot like that,” Sahli-Wells said.

In June, 11 of the nation’s lead- ing philanthropies announced that they would contribute $194 million in incremental investments to various organizations and initiatives, including programs to enhance school learning environments and reduce young people’s interaction with the justice system as part of the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, which President Barack Obama announced in February.

In July, President Obama announced new independent commitments by businesses and non-profits representing more than $100 million dollars and pledges of support from educators, business leaders, athletes, and mayors aimed at addressing some of the report’s recommendations, the White House said.