Gateways Program Receives $500,000

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) recently awarded a $500,000 grant to Evergreen’s Gateways for Incarcerated Youth program through Forward Promise, the foundation’s $9.5-million initiative to improve the health and success of boys and young men of color.

Improving Health and Success of Young Men of Color

Tali Zabari and Sione Matau

Evergreen student Tali Zabari and Sione Matau. Photo by Shauna Bittle '98.

Gateways offers incarcerated youth the chance to earn college credit while participating in faculty-led Evergreen seminar classes held at the juvenile institution and enlists college students as peer mentors and co-learners in academic work. In partnership with Washington state’s Green Hill School and Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration, this grant will provide more youth with educational access and support.

Based at Evergreen’s Center for Community Based Learning and Action, Gateways was one of 10 organizations selected for their innovative community-based programs that strengthen health, education, and employment outcomes for middle school- and high school-aged boys and young men of color.

“Young men of color are the future of our communities. Gateways works to support college access for incarcerated youth and provide peer learning for campus-based student mentors in a community setting,” said Evergreen faculty member Chico Herbison.

According to one participant, Gateways “gives incarcerated youth the chance to meet with college students, and mingle with them. It helps to develop a desire to attend college because you surround yourself with college students who are committed to their education… [It] helps juveniles to think about their future.”

RWJF launched Forward Promise in 2012 to address the fact that boys and young men of color are more likely to grow up in poverty, live in unsafe neighborhoods, and attend schools that lack the basic resources and support that kids need in order to thrive. In addition, actions that might be treated as youthful indiscretions by other young men often are judged more severely and result in harsher punishments that have lasting consequences. Statistics indicate that Latino youth are two times more likely and African-American youth are five times more likely to be involved with the juvenile justice system than their white counterparts.

“So much of our health is shaped by forces beyond the doctor’s office that are rooted in where we live, learn, work, and play. Far too many boys and young men of color become disconnected from school and work opportunities, undermining their ability to live healthy lives and strengthen their communities,” said Maisha Simmons, RWJF program officer. “This innovative model is helping young men overcome significant challenges, and we look forward to working with Gateways for Incarcerated Youth at The Evergreen State College to create a new future of hope for America’s young men of color.”