In a passionate speech after being introduced by a young man from the Dominican Republic, President Barack Obama announced Monday the launch of a foundation whose purpose is to ensure the success of young Black and Latino men.
"The simple point to make is - you matter," said President Obama to a packed audience at Lehman College, in the Bronx, in New York City. "We love these kids."
The My Brother's Keeper Alliance, which has already garnered $80 million in financial commitments and has the support of large companies as well as entertainment, sports and government leaders, will put resources into mentoring, educating and providing opportunities for boys and young men of color who may be growing up in households and neighborhoods without many job and educational opportunities or male role models.
This follows the "My Brother's Keeper" initiative in 2014, an administration initiative created to give more resources and assistance to young men of color through federal grants and programs.
The alliance will be spearheaded by Joe Echevarría, a South Bronx native of Puerto Rican heritage who grew up in a low-income, single-parent household and went on to become CEO of the global accounting and consulting firm Deloitte.
"What it really takes is vision and passion," said Echevarría in remarks before the president. "Fifty percent of the growth in this country is by young men of color," he added.
The "opportunity gaps" Obama spoke about in the speech between young men of color and the rest of the population are stark. As NBC News Latino reported, Latino boys have a one in four chance of growing up without a father. Eighty-two percent of Hispanic boys read below proficiency levels by the fourth grade. Hispanics were almost twice as likely to be suspended as white students in 2009-2010. Less than 6-in-10 Hispanic males graduate from high school in New York, Michigan and Colorado.
What's important to note, says Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is that many of the nation's Latino and African American corporate and civic leaders can relate to the issues faced by many of the nation's young men of color. Palomarez, who was named to the "My Brother's Keeper" advisory board, recently told NBC News Latino he had lived on the street for a time following the death of his mother when he was 15; his father had abandoned the family when he was 6.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to step up and use our own life experiences and share with young men of color that there is a way to get out if you stick to it and work hard," said Palomarez, who spoke on the phone with NBC.
"Mentoring, making time, as small as it may be, makes a difference and can transform a life," he added.
Darinel Montero, 19, introduced the president. He said he was raised by his grandparents and came to the U.S. when he was 15.
"From the moment I arrived, I felt a wave of stereotypes holding me down, in my mind and in the world around me," said Montero.
"We need to be seen for what is possible, not for the challenges we face," said the young Latino, who will attend college in the fall and wants to pursue civil engineering.
"I'm proud of you," said Obama as he took the podium from Montero.