Mario Hernandez wanted something more to do in high school.
He was a student at Dunbar High School in Fort Worth ISD and was involved in JROTC and other activities. Nothing quite kept his attention. So he turned to the mentorship program My Brother’s Keeper — and learned how to transition from childhood to adulthood.
What are My Brother’s Keeper and My Sister’s Keeper?
The My Brother’s Keeper and My Sister’s Keeper programs provide mentorship to students of color. In 2014, then-President Barack Obama launched the initiative. The programs are available at 15 high schools in Fort Worth ISD.
Students receive weekly mentoring and check-in sessions. Students learn about preparing for college, careers, community involvement and leadership. They also visit area colleges.
Hernandez told the Fort Worth ISD school board about his experience while trustees considered extending the program and its women-focused counterpart, My Sister’s Keeper. Ahead of the Aug. 22 board meeting, some community members wanted trustees to end the nonprofit’s contract because of what they saw as the program’s lack of transparency.
Trustees voted 7-2 to extend the program’s $255,000 contract for the 2023-24 school year. However, they directed staff to issue quarterly reports to track how students perform in the classroom and assess their well-being.
Trustees Kevin Lynch and Michael Ryan voted against the extension.
The mentorship programs have been in the district since 2014. Lynch understood that, but he wanted administrators to show how My Brother’s Keeper and My Sister’s Keeper impacted participants academically.
The data provided to the school board didn’t show how the programs affect student outcomes over the years, Lynch said.
“I want to make sure that we’re spending money where it needs to be spent, so we’re moving toward student outcome goals,” Lynch said.
Ryan described the data’s presentation as “terrible.” The document did not show attendance of all students participating in the program, he said. And, he did not want to spend that much money on a program that lacks robust information on outcomes.
During the 2022-23 school year, 177 students were registered in My Brother’s Keeper and 96 students were signed up for My Sister’s Keeper, according to district documents. However, 665 students participated.
“I would have flunked my stats class,” Ryan said, referring to the documentation.
Trustee Quinton Phillps agreed and said the school board has to provide accountability. However, he has seen how the programs changed students’ lives and put them on a path for a successful life.
My Brother’s Keeper and My Sister’s Keeper are two examples of programs that work, Phillips said.
“The one thing I know my community stands tall on is MBK and MSK,” Phillips said. “Whatever amount of money that we pay for it is worth it.”
The value the mentorship programs add to students’ lives cannot always be captured through quantifiable data, trustee Wallace Bridges said.
Trustee Tobi Jackson emphasized to trustees they need to look at how a student’s life is changed because of the programs. Students who don’t graduate cost society even more than what the cost of My Brother’s Keeper, she said.
My Brother’s Keeper showed Hernandez, the alumnus who spoke in favor of the programs, that he had a higher calling.
“I was encouraged to do what I wanted to do. What was that? I just got out of the active duty Army,” Hernandez said.
Now in the Army reserves, he is giving back to his community. To do that, he turned again to My Brother’s Keeper.
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.