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Matthew Simpson is a community impact manager with United Way of Rock River Valley

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Black Male Initiative: Connections Create Opportunities

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United Way's Black Male Initiative (BMI) is a pilot program that launched about a year ago. We partnered with Goodwill of Northern Illinois and the Workforce Connection to focus on empowering Black males between the ages of 18 - 24 to overcome challenges related to education and employment. Over the last year, we have connected 16 young men with mentors that provide additional guidance and motivation as they pursue their goals. These are some of the accomplishments to date:

  • Education – Five young men started with a high school diploma. Of the remaining 11, three have completed their high school equivalency (GED) since enrolling. One of which is now attending Rock Valley College. Eight are attending classes to complete their GED.

  • Employment – All 16 of the young men were unemployed upon enrolling. Eight have been placed in permanent employment and two are receiving valuable on-the-job training through “work experience.”

In the spirit of helping BMI participants access economic opportunities, Mr. Ken Porter, a mentor from Bergstrom, Inc., worked with leadership at his company to allow for our students to take a tour of the facility, and arranged for human resources to talk through the process of applying and getting a job. As a result of the tour, one of our students was recently hired at Bergstrom as an assembler!

BMI is making connections that translate into economic impact. As the program continues, we hope to build on successes like this and help ensure that all members of our community can achieve their potential. There are still opportunities to become in a mentor in the program. For more information, visit or call us at 815.986.4802.



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Guest Monday, 11 December 2017
Young Black Male Initiative United Way Workplace Campaign United Way 211 UW-Campaign17-Kickoff
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