The trial and not-guilty verdict in the murder of Trayvon Martin showed the negative way many people view young men of color in the United States. In hopes of changing this perception, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) introduced the Forward Promise initiative, a $9.5 million grant to promote opportunities for the health and success of young minority men while they attend secondary schools, the Grio reported.

RWJF decided to invest in the initiative after it reviewed data comparing success outcomes between men and boys of color and their white peers. For example, although African-American males make up only 4 percent of the population in California’s LA County, they represent nearly 40 percent of kids suspended and expelled from school.

The foundation selected several programs from across the nation that will help change the perceptions and trajectory of minority youths. One New York City–based program, the Brotherhood/Sister Sol, targets youths, ages 8 to 22, and focuses on leadership, education and social interaction issues. Another program, the Community Coalition (CoCo), aims to provide community-driven solutions to address the causes of violent crime and addiction in at-risk neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

Essentially, the top priority for both programs is to keep kids in school and stop them from being pushed out of academic institutions and onto the streets. “You start to see kids getting kicked out, which was a huge component to the school-to-prison pipeline,” said Alex Stewart, a youth organizer who has been working at CoCo for several years.

Many children who seem to have problems with school and social relationships might actually also have an undiagnosed mental disorder called attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). For more information about the increasing rates of ADHD diagnoses among African-American children, click here.