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Obama Foundation recognizes Tulsa as My Brother's Keeper model city

The City of Tulsa

The Obama Foundation has named Tulsa one of four model communities for the foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper alliance.

My Brother’s Keeper was started by former president Barack Obama in 2014 to close opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color in the United States.

While Impact Tulsa joined My Brother's Keeper as the city's partner agency just two years ago, from 2013 to 2019, the nonprofit led efforts to increase pre-k enrollment by 33% among students of color. Because of this, Tulsa achieved the MBK milestone of entering school prepared to learn.

As a result of the designation, MBK will contribute coaching, an $800,000 grant and ongoing technical assistance to its Tulsa partnership.

"Cities like Tulsa have changed the odds — creating opportunities for our young people to achieve their full potential," Obama said in a city news release.

A Georgetown University study on Tulsa Public Schools beginning in the mid-2000s revealed that students who attended pre-K had higher college enrollment rates, civic engagement and performance throughout school than those who didn't. Impact Tulsa Director Ashley Phillipsen said pre-K enrollment also socializes children, which impacts subsequent years.

When Impact Tulsa set out to increase enrollment, they made sure they weren't alone in their efforts.

"We partnered with school districts. We partnered with the health department. We partnered with community validators like clergy members and community members to raise pre-k awareness," said Phillipsen.

Now that it's an official MBK partner, Impact Tulsa has collected feedback that will help them achieve the program's goals. MBK's six goals are spread throughout a young person's life, from early childhood education to employment and safety after higher education or job training.

“We met with several boys and young men of color in Tulsa and asked, ‘What would it take to reach your full potential? What goals should we set?’ And that help us set a strategy for our post-COVID work," Phillipsen said.

Tulsa was recognized with Newark, Yonkers and Omaha as model communities. Each of the communities achieved one of the six goals.

Phillipsen said she’s inspired by the other communities, especially efforts that have lowered violent crime in Newark and Omaha.

"It's not going to take 20 or 30 years to move the needle here. We've seen people do things in a relatively short amount of time, and we can do that in Tulsa," she said.

In a news release, MBK Executive Director Adren Wilson said he is confident Tulsa will continue to serve as an example for best practices.

"I am incredibly proud of Tulsa's selection as an MBK Model Community,” Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said in the news release. “I want to thank the Obama Foundation for this recognition, which is a testament to our city's commitment to ensuring that every child has a healthy start and is ready to learn when they enter school. In Tulsa, we believe that investing in our youth is one of the most important things we can do for our city's future, and we will continue to work tirelessly to create opportunities and provide resources to support their success. Our goal is a city where every child has an equal opportunity for a great life.”

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS.
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