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Obama: It's 'Just the Beginning' for My Brother's Keeper Program

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama speaks during a My Brother's Keeper summit in the South Court Auditorium at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, part of the White House complex in Washington, Dec. 14, 2016.

Hosting a daylong summit for the My Brother's Keeper program, President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged more people to become mentors and said that's what he would do after leaving office next month.

In a bid to break down barriers, the nation's first African-American president launched My Brother's Keeper in 2014 to help narrow the opportunity gap for boys and young men of color, including through increasing high school graduation and employment rates.

Obama, hosting his final summit at the White House complex, said it was "just the beginning" for the nearly three-year-old program, one that he intends to stay involved in "for the rest of my life."

His presidential term ends January 20.

WATCH: Obama: Administration Focused on Creating Opportunities

"Since day one, my administration has been focused on creating opportunities for all people. By almost every measure, this country is better off than it was when I started," Obama said to cheers from the audience. "But what we also have long understood is some communities have consistently had the odds stacked against them, and that's especially true for boys and young men of color."

While initiatives at the federal level, including grant programs, could be undone by the incoming administration of Donald Trump, White House officials said much of the work would continue because more than 250 communities across the country were running their own My Brother's Keeper programs.

My Brother's Keeper seeks to create opportunities for young men of color by creating mentoring programs with professionals and stressing the importance of education and job training. Programs at the local level include efforts to reduce infant mortality rates, decrease juvenile arrest rates, raise third-grade reading levels and boost graduation rates.

WATCH: Obama: My Brother's Keeper Is About All of Us Working Together

Ensuring that all young people are able achieve their goals "is the single most important task that we have as a nation," he added.

Philadelphia was one of the first U.S. cities to adopt the My Brother's Keeper initiative, with nearly $90 million in private and public funding.

"I firmly believe that every child deserves the same chances that I had," Obama said in February 2014 during the program's launch.

VOA's Aru Pande contributed to this report.

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