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'We Cannot Move Forward if These Kids Are Left Behind' []


What does it take to widen the circle of opportunity in a rapidly diversifying America?

Few questions are more pressing for the country. The Census Bureau recently forecast that racial and ethnic minorities will become a majority of the nation’s under-18 population by 2020, most of the under-30 population by 2027, and a majority of the under-40 population just six years after that. These young people represent the nation’s future—its workers, consumers, taxpayers, and voters. Yet despite gains over the past generation, particularly in educational attainment, huge gaps still separate African American and Latino families from white (and, often, Asian American) families in terms of income, wealth, and college completion.

Each of the five winners of the 2017 Renewal Awards, which will be announced Tuesday at a forum in New Orleans, is trying to narrow those gaps. Now in their third year, the awards honor grassroots nonprofit organizations confronting the nation’s toughest challenges. The common insight connecting these groups was perhaps best expressed by Teresa Granillo, the executive director of Con Mi Madre, one of the winning organizations. “As a nation,” she told me, “we cannot move forward if these kids are left behind.”

The 2017 winners of the Renewal Awards, which are supervised by The Atlantic and sponsored by Allstate, capture an array of innovative responses to that challenge. Con Mi Madre supports young Latinas in Austin and El Paso, Texas, with academic enrichment and emotional counseling from sixth grade through college. Let’s Innovate Through Education, based in Memphis, provides classes, mentors, internships, and grants to encourage more young African Americans and Latinos to start businesses. Anew America provides support to immigrant, minority, female, and low-income entrepreneurs in Oakland and San Jose, California. The Hazleton Integration Project works to expand opportunity for Latino kids in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and to smooth relations between the city’s rapidly growing Latino community and its mostly older white population. Lastly, the Youth Empowerment Project in New Orleans operates 11 different programs, from educational initiatives to mentoring to job readiness. Each is designed to create pathways to employment and stability for young people who are either reentering society after incarceration, disconnected from work and school, or simply looking for more opportunity than is available in their neighborhoods.

[For more on this story by RONALD BROWNSTEIN, go to]

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