Happy Anniversary, Yonkers MBK - Fourth and Strong!
More than 200 students, parents, mentors, community leaders and dignitaries gathered on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 to celebrate Yonkers My Brother’s Keeper’s fourth year of working to improve opportunities and outcomes for boys and young men of color. The virtual event Happy Anniversary, Yonkers MBK - Fourth and Strong! raised $22,000 for the Yonkers MBK Scholarship Fund for graduating high school seniors through ticket sales and sponsorships.
“We are deeply grateful for the generosity of so many partners who continue to care for our young people and help clear their paths to higher education,” said Dr. Edwin M. Quezada, Superintendent of Schools and Yonkers MBK Co-Chair. “As the number of Black and Latino students graduating high school in Yonkers grows rapidly, so too, do the economic challenges that prevent many from attending college.”
Ninety one percent of Yonkers Public Schools’ Class of 2020 graduated on time – surpassing the State’s 85 percent and Westchester County’s 90 percent graduation rate - the District’s highest rate in decades. Black and Latinx students, male and female, all graduated at 90 percent or higher.
The event’s theme, Fourth and Strong, emphasized the resilience of Yonkers’ young people and the powerful movement My Brother’s Keeper has become in Yonkers since Mayor Spano accepted the national MBK Community Challenge in 2016. Starting in the District’s eight high schools, MBK chapters are now active in 23 schools, with programs expanding throughout the community. Yonkers MBK’s lead community organization, the Nepperhan Community Center, won one of 10 MBK Community Impact Awards from the Obama Foundation in 2018 to implement measurably impactful programs with partners including Yonkers Public Schools and the City of Yonkers.
Many of the evening’s notable speakers, including New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and State Senator Shelley Mayer, praised Yonkers for emerging as a leader among the 250 MBK communities across the country. Keynote speaker Michael D. Smith, the Executive Director of the Obama Foundation’s MBK Alliance, applauded many of Yonkers’ innovative programs aiming to strengthen and support young men of color including the Each One-Reach One mentorship initiative, Manhood Training and Rites of Passage.
“I was filled with pride when my boss, President Barack Obama, sat down with Dr. Quezada on MSNBC recently. Dr. Quezada told the story of the tremendous work and commitment taking place in Yonkers. These models are not just changing lives in Yonkers but are making a difference for others to learn from across the country,” he said.
Dr. Lester Young, Jr., the newly elected and first African-American Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents agreed. “MBK is about building esteem, identity, and self-worth. With a quality education, there is nothing our young people can’t achieve,” he said. “Yonkers represents a model not just for New York State but for the country as what you can do you when you invest in the lives of young people.”
Reflecting a similar sentiment, Champion of Equity honoree, Dr. Anael Alston, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Access, Equity and Community Engagement Services, New York State Education Department said, “Yonkers' youth are blessed to have adults who put their egos last, young people’s needs first and who set a standard of excellence to support them, nourish them and encourage them."
Comedian Talent Harris, the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, added laughter and music to the celebration and introduced two up-and-coming comedians: his son, The Young Talent Harris and Julio Diaz, who also performed for guests, bringing youthful humor to all who attended.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer summed up the message of many leaders, "We believe in this program, the people running this program and their talent. Most of all, we believe in you as young people,” he said.