Last summer, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman launched a grassroots program designed to take back the city’s neighborhoods from violence.
That program, Not My Son, was part of a larger city program, My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper, that was designed to help bring opportunity to residents of South St. Petersburg. Now, the city has created a second program designed to provide educational, entrepreneurial, and enrichment opportunities for African-American boys and young men. Applications are being accepted now for the program, which is scheduled to begin in January.
The Cohort of Champions youth training initiative will be the signature program under the My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper umbrella.
“Earlier this year, I articulated the city’s full commitment to changing the trajectory for our at-risk youth,” Kriseman said. “I promised to invest up to one million dollars in our youth and their families. This cohort makes good on that promise.”
The Cohort of Champions is a comprehensive, multi-faceted one-year training initiative for 100 of St. Petersburg African-American boys and young men between the ages of 12 and 24. The goal of the cohort is to develop character, support education, provide hands-on experience and workforce readiness training, as well as wrap-around support services.
The Cohort of Champions consists of seven programs within three areas of training and enrichment:
Educational training, including a combination of after-school employment training and/or second chance programs with post-secondary education opportunities;
Entrepreneurial training involving career readiness training and entrepreneurship training;
Enrichment initiatives/second chance programs offering wrap-around services and workshops for the families of all members of the inaugural cohort, as well as sports team building, a focus on healthy eating and cooking, role modeling, and mentoring round-up activities.
My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper or MBSK, is the city’s version of President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, a national program for communities to create and adopt their own programs to advance opportunities for minority male youth. St. Petersburg put its own twist on the program by including girls and young women under the overall umbrella program.
“Inspired by the White House MBK national model, local officials adapted and implemented our own programs specific to the needs of St. Petersburg,” said the Rev. Kenny Irby, director of the Cohort of Champions Training Initiative. “My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper and all of its components demonstrate the collective action of a cohesive community — families, government, nonprofits, social service agencies, education, schools, media, and the business community to improve life and opportunities to all.”