BENTON HARBOR, Mich., Nov. 14, 2016— In October, three My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Scholars from WMU-Southwest traveled to Flint, Michigan for the state-wide My Brother’s Keeper Youth Summit. The summit allows MBK communities from across the state to discuss how they are working to promote increased opportunities and develop innovative approaches for the youth and young adults.
WMU-Southwest master of social work students and MBK Scholars Carolyn Creamer, Siobhan Williams, and Tracy-Ann Cleveland Jennings attended the summit to discuss initiatives they are developing with the commissioners of the City of Benton Harbor to improve the lives of Benton Harbor’s youth.
As part of WMU’s MBK internship program, Creamer, Williams, and Jennings have paired up with a city commissioner to co-facilitate resident meetings in respective wards to promote engagement with the residents of Benton Harbor and learn first-hand what would improve the quality of life in Benton Harbor. Students are collecting and analyzing the results of the community discussions and will present a formal summary to city officials and the community in January 2017.
“Too often, agencies and organizations are the only ones who speak for residents, especially those who reside in communities of color or communities facing complex issues,” said Marian Tripplett, WMU-Southwest MSW faculty specialist. “In this instance, however, there is the capacity to successfully do this by bringing students, elected officials and residents together using a strengths-based interactive format.”
Attending the MBK Youth Summit in Flint also allowed the students to prepare to host a youth summit in Benton Harbor. They are planning to partner with youth-focused organizations in the community to host a youth summit with a focus on engaging with youth and young adults out of the traditional forums.
President Barack Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative in 2014 to help address persistent opportunity gaps facing young black, Hispanic and American Indian males. Through this initiative, the Obama administration has partnered with cities, businesses and foundations that try to connect young people to mentoring, support networks and skills needed to find a good job or to go to college.
Photo 1: Pictured (left-right) Mary Alice Adams, City of Benton Harbor commissioner; Siobhan Williams, MBK Scholar and MSW student; Marian Tripplett, WMU MSW faculty specialist; Marcus Muhammad, City of Benton Harbor mayor; and Carolyn Creamer, MBK Scholar and MSW student. (Not pictured) is Tracy-Ann Cleveland Jennings, MBK Scholar and MSW student.