Lansing working on My Brother's Keeper Challenge

Posted: 9:37 AM, Dec 03, 2015
Updated: 2015-12-03 09:37:04-05

Community leaders are trying to help Michigan children who aren't being given the same opportunities as others, through the "My Brother's Keeper Challenge." On Wednesday, community leaders from across the state met in Lansing to work on solutions.

It's aimed at setting up programs to help students stay in school and find jobs.

Harmonie Smith is one of dozens of teens who joined the meeting. She hasn't finished high school, but Smith is already thinking about what's next.

"I would like to be in the medical field, I'm just not sure what yet," Smith said.

Smith is a member of Peace & Prosperity Youth Action Movement, a local youth program that's part of My Brother's Keeper Challenge. Through it the Lansing High School junior is starting internships and mentoring.

"Teaching you how to be more open and out, a lot of kids aren't really introduced into the community and helping," Smith explained.

Getting teens focused on life after graduation is one goal of Lansing's My Brother's Keeper branch.

"We are either going to feed our future, or we're going to starve our future," said Angela Waters Austin, who's organizing that effort.

Waters Austin says more Ingham County teens are dropping out of high school, with nearly 7,000 young adults, between the ages of 16 and 25, who aren't in school and aren't working.

"That's the next generation of parents," Waters Austin added, who's also the President and CEO of One Love Global. "It's time for us to really deal with the data and not continue to pass from year to year and see the numbers continue to grow worse."

Lansing's Mayor Virg Bernero is on board, but says real change is going to take funding.

"We take people at the low end of the economic perspective and give them the least opportunity, and we take people in the best zip codes and give them the best opportunity," Bernero said. "We expect them to compete fairly and it's not working."

The Mayor says part of the problem is a lack of programs designed to keep kids from getting into trouble. He says right now most of the system is focused on dealing with them after they've been arrested.

Smith says she's committed to helping, making sure she gets her degree and work with her peers to make a difference in the community.

"There has to be change," Smith said.