MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. - Eighteen months after becoming the second municipality in Westchester County to accept President Barack Obama's "My Brother's Keeper Challenge," Mount Vernon school and city officials teamed up to co-host a Local Action Summit to discuss how to best improve educational opportunities for the community.
Fifty high school students and 50 adult mentors were invited to attend the event, which was held earlier this week. In order to become a mentor, volunteers must meet certain criteria set forth by the District and its partnering organization. The adult volunteers will mentor their students through the end of the academic year in June.
Last year, Mount Vernon became the second Westchester County municipality - behind its neighbors in New Rochelle - to accept former President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” challenge, which is designed to increase and improve opportunities for youth, specifically minorities, in cities throughout the country.
Under the challenge, all children will be emotionally, socially and physically prepared to attend classes, with all children literate by the third grade. Other specific goals include ensuring that every youth graduates high school, completes post-secondary education and come out prepared for gainful employment.
“Our goal is to match kids with mentors, which is one of the tenants of our 44th president, Barack Obama, and his effort to help increase graduation rates and reduce illiteracy rates for men of color,” Schools Superintendent Kenneth Hamilton said following the event.
The Summit included breakout sessions led by Shayne Brooks, Special Assistant to Mayor Richard Thomas and Community Liaison for the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and Brother Arthur Muhammed, the liaison for the Mount Vernon City School District.
“Mount Vernon, although it’s four square miles, there are pockets of division,” Muhammed added. “There are pockets of disjointedness, but with mentoring, bringing people who don’t know each other together and committing them actually makes the community small.”
During the event, Hamilton was joined by "Love & Hip Hop" star Peter Gunz, his son, rapper Cory Gunz, and Kwame Thompson for a panel discussion during dinner.
“I’ve asked a good friend of mine, Peter Gunz, to facilitate a conversation with our boys on gang-related activities,” Hamilton said at the event. “He has an initiative called Gunz Against Guns, which is something that’s been an issue in our community. So, tonight is two-fold, we have the mentor-mentee connection and our efforts to have conversations with our young men and the perils of being involved with guns.”
Gunz added that "a program where you have a mentor, to me, even if you just change one life, even if you can just touch one person, it’s 100 percent worthwhile."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.