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President Obama / Jacquelyn Martin, AP

President Obama is planning to unveil a new initiative with specific targets: African-American and Hispanic men who have disproportionate rates of unemployment.

Under the "My Brother's Keeper" program, foundations, businesses and community groups would develop plans to help men of color at particularly vulnerable times of their lives, administration officials said.

In previewing the initiative during last month's State of the Union Address, Obama said, "I'm reaching out to some of America's leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential."

Obama had planned to hold a White House event Thursday to officially unveil the new project, but it has been postponed because of bad weather.

Among the challenges faced by the "My Brother's Keeper" program: The jobless rate for black men older than 20 in January was 12%, compared with 6.6% for the nation as a whole.

For Hispanic men over the age of 20, the jobless rate last month was 8.2%.

For younger African Americans and Hispanics, unemployment rates are even higher.

One model for the new effort is a mentoring program in Chicago called "Becoming A Man," which encourages young men to develop education and job-training goals.

In a meeting with Obama a year ago, members of the BAM program talked about the problems with gangs, drugs, gun violence and substandard schools in their neighborhoods, and how so many young people are at risk for lives of crime, poverty or early death.

Speaking after that meeting, the nation's first African-American president - who grew up with an absent father - said he told the group, "I had issues, too, when I was their age. I just had an environment that was a little more forgiving."

Just as individuals have to change their approach and behavior, Obama said, "that's what it takes for communities to change. That's what it takes for countries to change. It's not easy."

Young men in the BAM program are expected to attend the White House ceremony whenever it is re-scheduled.

Two Obama administration officials discussed the "My Brother's Keeper" program on condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt Obama's announcement.

As part of the new effort, businesses and foundations would seek to develop strategies designed to help young men at critical and vulnerable parts of their lives. Goals range from helping boys get to school on time to avoiding problems with the criminal justice system.

Ideas include promoting literacy, early childhood education and healthy lifestyles, as well as disrupting what one official called "the school-to-prison pipeline."

"My Brother's Keeper" also involves a review of existing federal programs designed to address the challenges facing young men, discarding those that don't work and improving those that do - "all within existing federal resources," one official said.

Officials said program leaders will also reach out to Republican elected officials, faith leaders and corporate leaders.

One official said the goal of "My Brother's Keeper" is "to make sure that every young man of color who is willing to work hard and lift himself up has an opportunity to get ahead and reach his full potential."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Obama plans program to aid minority men

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