Forward Promise, an initiative to help boys and young men of color heal, grow, and thrive, launches at Penn GSE

April 4, 2017

“If it takes a village to raise a child, what does it take to raise a healthy village? That’s the guiding theme of our work.” With that, Dr. Howard Stevenson launched the Forward Promise national program office from the stage of the National Constitution Center in March.

From left: Penn GSE’s Howard Stevenson, Isaac Cardenas of the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions, and Jerry Tello, of the National Compadres Network, discuss the healing power of storytelling at the Forward Promise launch event.

Backed by a $12 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and based at Penn GSE’s Racial Empowerment Collaborative, Forward Promise will aid RWJF in realizing its vision to build a Culture of Health, ensuring it includes middle- and high-school-aged boys and young men of color by focusing on countering the effects of chronic stress and trauma and fostering their healing.

Stevenson, a Penn GSE professor and director of the Racial Empowerment Collaborative, will lead the Forward Promise national program office, which will award grants to organizations, support field-building efforts, and disseminate timely research to support organizations seeking to promote the health and success of boys and young men of color.

Beginning April 5th, Forward Promise will accept grant applications from organizations that provide culturally relevant and evidence-supported responses to trauma for boys and young men of color ages 12–24, while promoting opportunities for them to heal, grow, and thrive. To support their work, up to nine organizations will receive grants of up to $450,000.

"We hope that better understanding the burden that persistent trauma, violence, and adversity imposes on the health of boys and young men of color, and strengthening and spotlighting approaches for healing and growth, will set us on a solid course for making sure that our young people have the opportunity to thrive," RWJF senior program officer Maisha Simmons said.

On March 22, 2017, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, along with the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, launched the Forward Promise National Program Office, an initiative to promote the health of boys and young men of color (BYMOC).

At the launch event, Stevenson outlined his vision for Forward Promise.

“Village raising is the ability to create an ecosystem of relationships that we can see, that we can feel, that we can touch, that we can replicate, that we can evaluate, that fulfill four very important promises:

“One is affection, the ability to know and feel that someone cares about you and loves you. Another promise is correction, that ability to hold accountable in relationship your behavior as it reflects on us. It’s our relationship that matters, not that you follow a rule or you have broken a rule. It’s the relationship between us that’s broken that we’re more concerned about, and it’s our job to correct, to hold you accountable to that moment. Another promise is protection, to what degree can our young people find shelter that they can count on, every day, to not fight the battles they have to deal with alone? And finally, connection, which is about mobility. To what degree is it our job as a community, as a set of committed relationships, as a village, to help you move beyond where we are now, to other places in our world to thrive?

“So, when we think of a village, we think of a community, an ecosystem of relationships that can support young men and boys, and the families and relationships they are tied to, so they may heal, grow, and thrive.”

For details about Forward Promise’s current funding initiative can be found here. The deadline for submitting proposals is May 2, 2017. 


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