My Brother’s Keeper


MBK is an initiative to encourage community leaders across the country to develop plans to improve life outcomes and open up opportunities for all youth in our neighborhoods.

“That’s what ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ is all about. Helping more of our young people stay on track. Providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future. Building on what works – when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.”
- President Barack Obama, February 27, 2014

On September 27, 2014, President Obama announced that more than 100 mayors, county officials and tribal nations have accepted the My Brother’s Keeper [MBK] Community Challenge. Your involvement will invoke discussion and partnerships to eliminate opportunity gaps, barriers and challenges facing our youth; to ensure that all young people are positioned to succeed.

A White House report in May, 2014 identified six areas of focus that are critical to ensuring youth success from pre-K through college and their careers—regardless of who they are, where they come from or the circumstances into which they are born:

[1] Entering school ready to learn;

[2] Reading at grade level by third grade;

[3] Graduating from high school ready for college and career;

[4] Completing post-secondary education or training;

[5] Successfully entering the workforce;

[6] Reducing violence and providing a second chance.

On January 2, 2014, Mayor Toni N. Harp began her first day of work in the City of New Haven. One of the first events she attended was a memorial service for Javier Martinez at Common Ground High School.  Javier had been shot a week prior and his funeral took place amidst inclement weather in a snowstorm. At the time Mayor Harp said “No family should have to bear the anguish Javier's family must be feeling - I join all New Haven residents in heartfelt sorrow for the tragic loss of this young man and all the potential he had,”; “And even as we grieve we must recommit to address the frequency of urban violence in our country so this senseless waste of human potential is stopped.” Soon thereafter, the City of New Haven experienced 4 more shootings of young people under the age of twenty.

In response to the increase of violence amongst the City’s youth, Mayor Harp called all City High School principals into her office for a one on one meeting to gain perspective directly from educators on what the City could do to devise a plan of response.

Mayor Harp made a critical decision to ask the community to come together and go door to door to the homes of families and students to offer supportive services and resources to begin the conversation about nonviolence and what collective strategies we needed to take as a City.

The canvass was titled New Haven’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Canvass adopting President Barack Obama’s message in the State of the Union Address.  This community canvass was made by the Board of Education employees, City of New Haven municipal employees, New Haven Policemen, Firemen and concerned citizens.

The challenge experienced during this canvass was the difficulty of knowing which homes the 500 employees and residents of the City should go to because they have students with propensity for violence or to become victims of violence.

One of Mayor Harp’s charges to the educators, police, mental health experts and others was that data and early signals be used to detect which young people are going to commit violence or be disengaged. 

The exercise of figuring out the homes that should be targeted transformed into a typical data mine sampling.

Superintendent Garth Harries and the New Haven Board of Education determined three metrics needed to be considered in order to determine disengaged youth. These metrics were absenteeism, behaviors, and academics. 

The New Haven Board of Education’s IT department pulled students data based off the following criteria: Fifteen [15] or more absences / One or more suspensions / D’s and F’s in math or reading.

We then changed our absentee benchmark from 15 or more absences to an absentee rate of 10% or higher to ensure an even playing field with regards to enrollment days.

An outcome from the Mayor’s meeting with principals was that each school would have its own intelligence on students who were disengaged and at risk for violence or being targets.  These principals also submitted referrals to households. 

Because of Mayor Harp’s initiative in bringing everyone to the table and to the doors of the families in need, she was recognized by President Obama for her adaption of the MBK directive at a MBK meeting in Washington, DC.