Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Penn GSE Launch Forward Promise

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New National Program Office Focuses on Trauma and Healing for Boys and Young Men of Color

“We know that boys and young men of color all over this country have many gifts that our society needs..." says Dr. Stevenson

The Forward Promise National Program Office, supported by a $12 million investment from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, officially launches today at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE). The office, which will promote a culture of health for middle- and high school-aged boys and young men of color, will focus on efforts to limit the effects of trauma and foster healing. Led by renowned psychologist Dr. Howard Stevenson, Director of the Racial Empowerment Collaborative of Penn GSE, the office will facilitate grants to non-profits, provide technical assistance and field-building support to organizations seeking to impact boys and young men of color, and disseminate timely research. Forward Promise’s overarching mission is to create the conditions for boys and young men of color throughout the United States to heal, grow and thrive.

The Forward Promise initiative was originally developed and managed by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation staff. The Foundation’s leadership determined that it could have greater impact if it moved into the field to leverage the resources and energy of organizations and community leaders all over the nation.

“RWJF is excited about this next phase of Forward Promise. We hope that better understanding the burden that persistent trauma, violence, and adversity imposes on the health of boys and men of color, and strengthening and spotlighting approaches for healing and growth, will set us on a solid course for making sure that our young people have the opportunity to thrive,” says Maisha Simmons, senior program officer at RWJF.

Through a competitive process, RWJF selected Penn GSE to launch and manage the Forward Promise National Program Office. As the National Program Director, Dr. Stevenson, a professor of education and a clinical psychologist, will lead a team of professionals with long-standing experience in the field and a deep commitment to healing and strengthening boys and young men of color. Rhonda Bryant of The Moriah Group, an international consulting firm based in Huntsville, AL, will serve as the Deputy Director.

“We know that boys and young men of color all over this country have many gifts that our society needs. It’s in everyone’s interests to facilitate their healthy development so that we might all benefit from the dreams and talents they have within them,” said Dr. Stevenson.

To find out more about Forward Promise, visit and subscribe to receive updates and opportunities to get involved.

About The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health. Since 1972, the Foundation has supported research and programs targeting some of America’s most pressing health issues—from substance abuse to improving access to quality health care. Key areas of focus are Health Leadership, Health Systems, Healthy Communities, and Healthy Kids, Healthy Weight.

About University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education
The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) is one of the United States’ premier education schools. Renowned for its expertise in urban education, policy research, quantitative methods, practitioner inquiry, developmental psychology, and qualitative analysis, Penn GSE provides rigorous academic training and professional mentoring to help its students become effective leaders. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit

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Nona Richardson
since: 10/2016
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