By Marie Y. Lemelle news4usonline.com contributor
Childhood friends Jason Warwin and Khary Lazarre-White, Esq., co-founded a grassroots organization in 1995 to address some of the issues affecting black and Latino male youths by investing their time, money, resources, and heart to change the statistics that plagued the youth in Harlem.
Thus, the Brotherhood was formed. As the organization grew, so did the desire to include young women. Warwin and Lazarre-White changed the name of the organization to reflect that, establishing The Brotherhood/Sister Sol (BHSS).
What’s the big deal about BHSS? Well, the organization just happens to have one of the more effective programs across the nation in bridging education success with life skills to urban youths.
Now the Harlem-based organization is hoping to bring its impact to Los Angeles-area schools. In a gala event celebrating the success of the organization, Lazarre-White came out to Los Angeles recently to talk up the outstanding work they are doing.
Television and film stars Hill Harper (For Colored Girls), Maya Gilbert (Southland), Vanessa Williams and Tracee Ellis Ross (Girlfriends) were among the attendees. The purpose of the event was to pay homage to the work BHSS is doing.
“To be a part of a movement and organization that promotes safety, encourages dreams, and uplifts our youth today, is not only an honor but also a privilege,” said Gilbert. “It’s our responsibility as a country and a member of humanity to do all that we can individually and collectively as a whole and I’m happy to be able to do my part.”
If you go by the numbers, BHSS is a solution that works. The comparable statistics and the youth who became BHSS alumni are living proof that the nonprofit is on the right track. Los Angeles County Schools can learn many lessons from BHSS.
Last year, the state of California’s dropout rate went up nearly 22 percent. The numbers are higher for African American and Latino students. The dropout rate for African American students is an alarming 37 percent. The numbers for Latino students hover around 27 percent. The graduation rate in the Los Angeles Unified School District is 69.6 percent.
While local leaders and education enthusiasts differ on the many problems that could play a part in those high statistical numbers, the Harlem-based The Brotherhood/Sister Sol (BHSS) could bring in the solution to the state’s problems.
In New York, BHSS serves young people from the age of eight to 22-years-old. Their primary focuses on issues such as leadership, sexual responsibility, political education, global awareness, and social justice.
In West Harlem, 42 percent of youth graduate from high school and less than 34% of black males graduate in 4 years. One out of every three black men in America ages 20-29, are under supervision of the criminal justice system.
In New York City, 9.4% of youth have children before graduating from high school. In comparison, 88 percent of BHSS alumni have graduated from high school. No alumni of BHSS are incarcerated and less than 1% are on probation.
Less than 2% of BHSS alumni have had a child before graduating from high school. Ninety-five percent of BHSS alumni are working full time or enrolled in college.
In short, the model program works.
Lazarre-White travels around the country to train educators and those interested in changing the course of the youth to walk a prosperous path. “We serve an average of 250 kids who come from a household of four existing on $22,000 a year.”
Harper ushered a call to action.
“You have to expand your circle of care and give young people a sense of being encompassed through volunteerism, recruitment, resources, and donations – make a commitment.”Hill said.
BHSS will celebrate its 7th Annual Signature celebration “Voices,” set for May 5. The event will be hosted by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien.
Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.