Evergreen’s “Gateways” Program Receives Major Funding

July 17, 2013

Improving Health and Success of Young Men of Color

Princeton, NJ, - The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced its support of The Evergreen State College “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. Gateways will receive approximately $500,000 over 30 months to support its programs that bring college students to juvenile institutions to work as peer mentors, tutors, and co-learners with incarcerated youth.

Gateways for Incarcerated Youth, based at Evergreen’s Center for Community Based Learning and Action, 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.

“We are excited to be part of the community of Forward Promise grantees,” said grant project director Ellen Shortt Sanchez. “This community is developing innovative models across the country that can put all of our young people on a path to a healthy and successful adulthood.”

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 supports 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 reflect these troubling trends: 44 percent of Latino males and 46 percent of African American males do not have a high school diploma, and 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.”

RWJF is investing in best practices and successful models around the nation that can be strengthened and spread to help even more boys and young men of color. Gateways, together with the other grantees supported through RWJF’s Forward Promise initiative, seeks to improve outcomes for African-American, Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, and/or Native American boys and young men in one or more of the following areas: 1) school discipline approaches that do not push students out of school; 2) early interventions that focus on dropout prevention and increasing middle school retention and high school graduation rates; 3) mental health solutions tailored to young men who have been exposed to violence and trauma; and 4) career-training programs that address both education and employment to ensure that youth are college- and career-ready.

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.