President Barack Obama announced his new Call to Arts Initiative on Friday to help garner mentorship of young people through the arts. As a part of the initiative, the film industry — through American Film Institute and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists — has pledged to give one million mentor hours over the next three years together to inspire and engage young people nationwide
“If we give all of our kids the best opportunities and technologies and resources, there’s no telling what they’ll create, now and in the years ahead,” Obama said on Friday at the second-annual White House Student Film Festival. “We’ve seen how impactful these mentoring services can be.”
At the White House Film Festival themed “The Impact of Giving Back,” Obama was joined by celebrities Hilary Swank, Steve McQueen, Jake Johnson, Terrence J, LaLa Anthony, Kal Penn, Amber Riley, Michael Ealy and Will Packer, who all pledged to help young people grow as artists by sharing their own passions.
The Call to Arts joint initiative is a part of the president’s progress in his larger My Brother’s Keeper program, which he began a year ago to work toward close the opportunity gap faced by young men of color. The effort is being spearheaded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency assigned to the president’s nationwide service initiative.
“Programs like My Brother’s Keeper were launched by the president to recognize our responsibility to reach every young person regardless of who they are or where they come from,” said in a statement from the White House.
CNCS, in collaboration with organizations like MENTOR: The National Mentoring Project, will match partner organizations to SAG-AFTRA members in order to share their skills and experience with students.
USC’s Pullias Center for Higher Education, within the Rossier School of Education, launched its own mentoring program called Increasing Access Mentoring Program. The action-based program includes intensive mentoring from USC faculty and graduate students to aid college-ready high school seniors through the college application process. Through the mentoring, the program provides local high school seniors with critical information and support that they otherwise may not have had access to.
The I AM Mentoring Program focuses on increasing college-going for Cal State and UC eligible high school seniors in schools with historically low college matriculation rates. Through mentorship relationships, students receive insight on transitioning from high school to college.
At the White House event, Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years A Slave shared his experiences in the arts community and challenged others in the film industry to work with youth.
“To look at film, but also at the same time, to ask questions. It’s just one of those things, to be aware of what we want to do as artists and influencers in our own community and the broader, bigger world,” said McQueen.
“Growing up, I was treated like an outsider because my family was poor, so I escaped into books and film … they made me want to become an actor so I could continue learning about myself,” said Swank, who named her mother and teachers as mentors. “The most important person when it comes to defining and achieving success is you.”
In studies by MENTOR it has been shown that students who meet regularly with mentors are half as likely to skip school and 37 percent less likely to skip a class. In addition, students who meet with their mentors are 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs and 27 percent less likely to consume alcohol.
Through My Brother’s Keeper, the president has coordinated with other government entities, businesses, nonprofits, and education agencies to match young people with tools and opportunities for success, regardless of circumstances. The program is broken down into three tiers: Place-Based State and Local Engagement, Private-Sector Action and Public Policy review and reform. In the program’s first year, more than 2,000 individual community-based allies have committed to support the My Brother’s Keeper initiatives within their local communities.