Life without permanent housing is a not-so-distant memory for D’Angelo Smalley, a former foster youth living in Sacramento, CA.

Smalley, 19, spent his holiday season collecting donations and distributing meals to many of the nearly 4,000 people in Sacramento that entered homelessness during the first half of 2020.

As a fellow and youth facilitator at My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative launched by the Obama Foundation to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color, Smalley leaned into his support system to make an impact in his community.

“Another fellow and I came together and recognized just how many homeless people were outside over Thanksgiving and Christmas and needed help,” Smalley said. “I reached out to the coordinator of My Brother’s Keeper Sacramento and they gave us the resources we needed to buy food and we passed it out to more than 500 people.”

Since he joined My Brother’s Keeper Sacramento in 2018, Smalley says that the initiative has afforded him the opportunity to connect with others that share his passion and commitment for improving the lives of others. Since graduating high school last year, Smalley has given back to the organization by mentoring younger fellows through his role as a youth facilitator.

“My Brother’s Keeper is about building a brotherhood with all of these different people that face the same challenges as I do every day,” Smalley said. “Before I joined this group, I wasn’t hanging out with people who were a positive influence and I never had a direction that I wanted to go in. Now I’m surrounded by people who share my interests and want to make a change in our community.”

His experiences through My Brother’s Keeper have helped him to discover his passion for public speaking and advocating on behalf of the younger fellows that he mentors as a youth facilitator.

Smalley also had the chance to connect with leaders from My Brother’s Keeper chapters across the country, and President Barack Obama, when he attended a MBK Rising! — a national conference in Oakland, CA, in 2019.

“It’s been so empowering to meet so many different people through this group that share my passion for making a change in the community — including life mentors that I look up to. The bonds I’ve created are incredible.”

Creating an Equitable Society for All

Introducing mentors into the lives of people like Smalley is one of the organization’s primary goals across the 250 communities that the initiative supports.

“Just taking kids out to a basketball game and giving them an ice cream cone has very little long-term impact,” said Michael Smith, Executive Director of My Brother’s Keeper. “We’re working with My Brother’s Keeper organizations across the country to develop evidence-based mentoring practices. We’re creating a transformative mentoring space to create consistency and long-term commitments instead of having a revolving door in the life of a child who may already have been in foster care systems or other vulnerable situations.”

When the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused many mentoring programs to go virtual, it became of the utmost importance to My Brother’s Keeper Community organizations across the country to ensure those transformative mentoring efforts remained in place.

Capital One is teaming up with My Brother’s Keeper to help sustain those efforts with a $1.3 million grant to help close gaps in equity and help boys and young men of color gain better access to socioeconomic opportunity.

In addition to helping stand up the nearly 40 new MBK Communities that joined the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance since this summer, funding from Capital One will support the launch of the My Brother’s Keeper Framework to Affect Systems Change — a roadmap that allows communities to determine if they’re on the right track to building a community that lifts up boys and young men of color. The Framework will launch at a national virtual leadership forum in March for My Brother’s Keeper youth and community leaders to learn what it takes to move their work to the next level.

Capital One’s support for My Brother’s Keeper comes as part of our larger Capital One Impact Initiative, an initial $200 million, multi-year commitment to advancing socioeconomic mobility through advocating for an inclusive society, building thriving communities and creating financial tools that enrich lives.

“At Capital One, we believe that socioeconomic mobility starts from a place of inclusion and security,” says Costanza Tedesco, Managing Vice President of Retail Experiences and Awareness at Capital One. “We are proud to support My Brother’s Keeper and its commitment to fostering transformative long-term mentoring relationships to ensure that all people have an equal opportunity to prosper.”

In addition to helping grow virtual mentoring opportunities, Capital One is supporting My Brother’s Keeper’s recently launched Reimagining Policing Pledge — a call for mayors and local officials to review and reform use-of-force policies, redefine public safety and combat systemic racism within law enforcement. 

“Not only are we growing the number of communities that we’re supporting and making sure that they have the resources they need but we’re also trying to deepen the work that takes place there,” Smith said. “Capital One’s support is allowing us to do both of those things at a time when this work is crucially important.”