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On February 19th and 20th, nine Latino Men & Boys (LMB) program youth and four Mentors were part of the Obama Foundation’s MBK Rising! conference, a convening for the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative held in Oakland that brought together the growing network of MBK communities, elected officials, cross-sector leaders, young men of color and the organizations working hard to help them achieve their dreams.

Erick Vargas, LMB Coordinator, thought the LMB youth walked away with a positive reinforcement: they are worthy and should have the right to a wealth of knowledge and exposure. “Though they felt foreign to be in an environment surrounded by politicians and celebrities, they have every right to be there as well.”

Our youth were thrilled to hear from President Barack Obama during a town hall meeting with Stephen Curry from the Golden State Warriors and R&B singer John Legend. President Obama highlighted what is working to improve the lives of boys and young men of color, and lift up the young voices in the room.

The Unity Council CEO Chris Iglesias was also a guest at the two-day event and described it as a huge success for the city of Oakland and organizations like The Unity Council. “This was a powerful message directed to young men of color that people believe in them,” says Iglesias. “There is a huge foundation being laid across the country that supports our youth of color, their lives and journeys to be strong, productive folks in society.”

The LMB program has been part of the Obama’s Foundation MKB Alliance for the past five years. We collaborate with Urban Strategies Council, The City of Oakland, The Mentoring Center, and The Oakland/­Alameda County Alliance for Boys and Men Of Color to expand evidence-based initiatives to reduce youth violence, grow effective mentorship programs, and measurably improve the lives of boys and young men of color.

“We want to continue to provide these amazing opportunities for our youth, because we want them to know that we are investing in them,” says Vargas. “This event aligns with our mission to give our student the appropriate tools to learn about their identity and culture needed to build their confidence and learn about their purpose.”

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