My Brother’s/ Sister’s Keeper Program was founded to acknowledge the discrimination directed towards young men and women of color. In recent years, this program has gained in size and its participants have grown to include students of WHSAD as well as numerous other schools.
In order to understand the significance of the My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper Program, two WHSAD students who have been attending the program, share their experiences.
Gilver Bueno, WHSAD Senior
As it has been explained to me, My Brother’s Keeper and My Sister’s Keeper is a program meant to build and strengthen bonds with fellow students and residents of Brooklyn. In the program, you are to look after one another and take part in a bigger picture, one that showcases interconnectedness and special friendships you build to help yourself and others. You do activities to create and improve connections with those who are similar to you in the program, allowing a safe space for someone to be themselves.
The meeting for the program was enlightening. The first thing I noticed at the meeting was the fact that the group was large, around 300 people were on the call. At first, this made me anxious about joining, but then the speakers started explaining the program, and the students who took part began as well. It seemed too good to pass up.
The students described a fellowship in which you can depend on others and learn about yourself without judgment and with help. They described programs in which they have built bonds with others whom they now consider their brothers. They have learned through the activities as well, gaining knowledge of oneself and insight into others. The program seemed to be a good area to be in with others who feel the same as any individual to join. Being a part of this program will prove to be useful and an opportunity for bettering myself and helping others in the process. My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper is an interesting idea and I am happy to be a part of the program.
Hailey Brizuela, WHSAD Senior
On November 3, My Brother’s Keeper hosted an introductory Zoom session into the program and introduced My Sister’s Keeper, a sisterhood that is happening for the first year alongside the brotherhood. In this session, we learned about the programs. MBK and MSK is a program that encourages young men and women to be leaders within their communities. It is a self empowerment program and it seems like we will be having a lot of interesting activities on this year’s agenda.
I am looking forward to being part of MSK this year. I expect to grow in this program. I see myself getting support and learning from other people of color, especially from women, which is especially what the world needs this year and all the years to come. This program is important for so many young men and women in high school because it seems like it is a family, and we can all rely on each other. Members who have already been involved in MBK said how this program has changed their life. They were filled with so much positivity and love and I can’t wait to be a part of that.
High school is tough and has different effects on everyone. But knowing that there are people out there that know, understand, and will help out makes you feel so much better and somewhat relieved. Being a senior in WHSAD, there is a lot of stress surrounding all of us. Keeping our grades up, applying for college, building our resumes and more has a lot of us stressed out. Being in a program with other teens who understand will be great for everyone. I am sure that MSK will bring out something good in me and teach me leadership skills. I am so excited to be a part of this new sisterhood and surround myself with female positivity and so much women power!!
In addition to student responses, one of the My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper Program directors was willing to provide his perspective of the program.
Terrence Paulin, Field Support Liaison, NYC Department of Education
What is your official role in the ‘My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper’ program?
“I serve as the coordinator of the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) program for the Brooklyn North High School district and my colleague Dr. Rushell White leads the My Sister’s Keeper (MSK) program.”
What is My Brother’s/Sister’s Keepers philosophy?
“In 2014 Barack Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper to address the achievement gaps that persisted among boys and young men of color, as high school graduation rates were the lowest among this group as compared to any other student cohort. As these trends persist, there must be an intentional effort to not only address these gaps but, to also consider the requisite skills that students need to develop a sense of purpose that will guide and inform pathways to successful outcomes.
The philosophy of the MBK/MSK initiative at Brooklyn North High Schools champions the belief that all students possess within them the potential for greatness. This potential must be nurtured and supported within an environment that focuses on personal growth & leadership development, fellowship, and community advocacy. As these efforts align, it is our belief that students will have a network of peer and adult support that will result in academic and personal success not only for themselves but also for the community around them.”
What does the program offer participating students?
“Both programs offer students an opportunity to further develop 21st century learning skills: communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. They will connect with peers around issues that impact them, giving them a voice to challenge ideas and to inform practice. They will become aware of their individual skillsets that will allow them to understand how to make better decisions and advocate for themselves and others. As they develop projects and service initiatives, they are thinking through issues and working together to develop strategies. Both programs will engage students from all schools, so community building and networking will be an essential offering especially during this pandemic that has impacted socialization on a broad scale. Finally, students will be exposed to leaders from the field to inform their path and plans post-high school. “
How has the program grown over the years?
“MBK completed its first full year last year (2019-20). While we were unfortunately impacted by the global pandemic and then the social unrest and violence around the world triggered by the murder of George Floyd, there were some outcomes that have led to a shift for this year. We found that there needs to be a more intentional effort around focused leadership development, peer support, and service. To that end MBK this year will identify a leadership group of young men (district fellows) who will form a leadership council to set the agenda for their peers. These young men will be trained and will work with the district and community partners to liaise with schools and lead community town halls events and projects. Peer support is critical if we are to improve academic and personal outcomes. MBK participants will learn how to be a “Keeper”, checking in with each other to inspire better outcomes. Lastly, service will be an expectation as well as schools will be tasked with identifying service initiatives to better address community needs. MSK launching this year building on the tenets of “FLY” – Fellowship & Agency, Leadership & Engagement, and Youth Impact.”
How have students grown because of the program?
“Students have reported that they have felt a sense of community as coming together to share vulnerabilities allowed them to feel safe. Last year students made connections with other students beyond their school and district. In working with the DOE Central Office, students have also taken on significant roles in leadership: NYS developed a fellowship program, now in year 3, and Brooklyn North has had 5 young men appointed as state fellows (2 last year, and 3 for this year). These fellows will be assigned mentors and will develop service projects in alignment with the state MBK program.”
Any other thoughts about the program, you would like to offer?
“My last thought to share is that although MBK/MSK is considered a program, it is best to think of these efforts as a movement that would be included as part of the learning experience for all students. To that idea, this work depends on the collaboration amongst all of the adults at the school and district levels. This is only year 2 for MBK and the inaugural year for MSK so we welcome the support of all and everyone in service of all our students.”