“I hope that I’ll be able to influence these kids, and that they can see me as a role model, as a positive figure in their lives, and think, ‘if Mr. Henderson was able to go to college, I’ll be able to go to college as well.’” – Robert Henderson on his time as an AmeriCorps member with City Year in Columbia, South Carolina, featured in the documentary All the Difference
On November 1, 2016, the White House hosted a screening of the documentary All the Difference for college students, White House Fellows, Congressional staffers and representatives from the Department of Education. Set in Chicago, the film is an inspirational account of perseverance by two African American young men – Robert Henderson and Krishaun Branch. Following the screening, Michael D. Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of My Brother’s Keeper, led two robust - and emotional - panel discussions about the challenges facing young African-American men in their quest to pursue education.
Bestselling author and combat veteran Wes Moore shared his belief that our greatest threat as a nation will not come from something overseas, but rather from our own country not addressing the human capital need in our country by educating all of our students to their fullest potential.
Tim King, the CEO of Chicago’s Urban Prep also features heavily in film. He discussed how through support of mentors and caring adults, progress can be made toward improving outcomes for students, and remarked that the two students featured in the film were the grandson of a sharecropper and another whose parents didn’t even graduate high school. Now, they were in the White House watching a movie about their paths to becoming college graduates.
King thanked President Obama and My Brother’s Keeper for highlighting the potential that exists in all of these young men and he encouraged all of us to see each individual as much more than just a statistic.
And yet, there was also acknowledgement that we have far to go, despite the progress that has been made in improving high school graduation rates and college attendance. In order for many of our country’s most vulnerable kids to succeed, we need to be able to bring the wraparound services to them and change much of the bureaucracy that can get in the way of students accessing what they need. It will take all of us recommitting to doing everything we can to help them succeed.
This is what we at City Year deeply acknowledge – that if 80% of all future jobs in this country will require some form of post-secondary education, we need to ensure that we are helping more students graduate from high school ready with the skills to be successful in college and a career. It's part of what drew Robert Henderson to apply and serve with City Year. “City Year was the hardest – and most rewarding – year of my life. " During the panel, Robert went on to share how City Year also helped him impact students’ lives in South Carolina and was a place where he could continue to learn and grow.
A key theme Robert continued to emphasize was the importance of positive male role models. At City Year, we see the important role mentors play in students’ lives every day in the more than 300 schools where we serve. Our students are smart and capable, and we are proud to be a partner of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative to help more young men of color reach their full potential.