WASHINGTON (WJZ) — President Obama has a new plan to help the youth succeed.

Jessica Kartalija has the details.

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The president unveiled a new initiative Thursday that is both powerful and personal.

Young minority men join the nation’s first black president as he launches a new effort to help them succeed.

“We need to change the statistics. Not just for the sake of the young men and boys, but for the sake of America’s future,” President Obama said.

The president’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative will put money and muscle behind programs helping at-risk youth stay in school and out of jail.

A number of foundations have answered the call to action, with about $150 million going toward education, juvenile justice and job opportunities–like Maryland’s Our House.

“Being here is like getting a second chance,” Collins Reed said.

“They’re preparing us for the real world,” said Ernest Johnson.

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The White House says by fourth grade, 86 percent of black male students are below reading proficiency levels. That’s compared to 58 percent of whites. The unemployment for black men is almost double the national average.

“It basically became my family and stuff,” James Adams said. “People that I can talk to at all times.”

Trayvon Martin’s death two years ago brought a renewed focus on the issue for the president.

Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings applauds the initiative.

“Young African American men have immense potential to be powerful and inspiring leaders in our communities, but they face challenges both economic and systemic that no other demographic in the United States endures. President Obama’s ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative will provide these young men with the right guidance and access to opportunities, so that they are able to shine.

“I see the youth who will benefit from the ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative in my community every day. They are bright, enterprising, clever, and imaginative, but the odds they face often destroy the dreams they have. I commend the President for recognizing those odds, and I applaud this new effort to identify strategies that will positively alter these young men’s lives. I look forward to the work this partnership will do to give our young black men a fighting chance.”

The Annie Casey Foundation in Baltimore is joining the White House efforts. The foundation’s president says they are working to ensure that all children have a fair chance to reach their potential in the neighborhoods, schools and life.

Business and foundation leaders have announced pledges of more than $200 million over the next five years.

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