Nobody’s perfect, but for far too many boys of color their mistakes can devastate their lives forever. After getting into trouble with the law, Noah McQueen could have been just another statistic, but with the help of his mom and a whole lot of self-determination, he turned his life around. Now…he’s hanging with the president.
Last year, President Obama announced a new initiative called My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), an ambitious program aimed at empowering at-risk boys of color and giving them the tools (and support) they need to succeed.
In the past year, the White House has not only mentored a group of young men from around the country, including Noah, but has also challenged cities, organizations, and businesses around the country to get on board as well.
My Brother’s Keeper aims to:
- Make sure boys enter school ready to learn
- Help boys read at grade level by third grade
- Ensure boys graduate from high school ready for college and career
- Help young men complete postsecondary education or training
- Make sure young men successfully enter the workforce
- Reduce violence and provide a second chance
Cities across the nation have implemented mentoring, job training, and educational programs to help at-risk boys succeed, and it’s working, especially for Noah.
Although his dad lives nearby, Noah—life President Obama—didn’t grow up with his father. According to the teen, this caused him to feel angry and disillusioned with life and led to several bad choices. After getting into trouble for fighting and skipping school, Noah ended up “on the run from the law,” a pattern he learned from other men in his neighborhood.
He explained it all in a chat with StoryCorps:
“You kind of learn right and wrong on your own terms,” he said, explaining how his dad’s absence affected him. “I got into fights. And fighting or getting put out of school is, you know, normal. So that’s how really the trouble started for me being in the juvenile system. I was on the run.”
Thankfully, Noah’s mother intervened and sent him to a Christian retreat to help him get his life together. At first, he resisted the change, but Noah eventually came around.
“It wasn’t until I decided to do better for myself, that I had to be held accountable for my actions, so I’m not the same person,” he told the president. “I’m not the same creature. Everything about me — and my being — is different.”
Now, Noah has not only turned his life around, but he’s also giving back. In addition to being a student ambassador, editor of the newspaper, and an all-county football player at his high school in Maryland, Noah is also the president of AMATE (African-American Males Aspiring to Excel).
Still, that isn’t enough. Although he has a full slate of academic and extra curricular activities, Noah also mentors and tutors other young men so they won’t repeat his mistakes.
“I feel like if I can catch a kid at the elementary or middle school level I feel like I can make a difference,” he told President Obama. “We owe it to everyone to come back and change [things]. That’s our civic duty.”
Noah’s transformation has been nothing short of amazing. He’s gone from getting in trouble with the law to being mentored by the most powerful man in the free world. Oh, and he’s also heading to college in the fall. Even President Obama was impressed.
“I just want to say how proud I am of you, man,” the president told Noah. “It’s not an easy thing to do what you’ve done. And I think you give others a lot of confidence and a sense of what’s possible for them. And that makes me real proud. I know you’re going to do great things.”
We totally agree.
Take a look at Noah and President Obama’s powerful interview.