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Every February, the United States commemorates Black History Month by celebrating the achievements of African Americans throughout our nation’s history. The New York State Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department (NYSED) believe that Black History Month affords an opportunity for all of us to renew our commitment to remembering our rich history. To appreciate our history, we must recognize the vast contributions of the true heroes who came before us while reaffirming our strong commitment to social justice.

At no time in recent history has the need to address systemic racism been more significant, as people across the country demand a response to the inequities that we face in our society. Our schools can facilitate continuous conversations and a collective understanding of this issue among our nation’s youth by committing to the idea that learning about Black history is not simply a one-month event; rather, schools must emphasize Black history throughout the school year and enhance the focus on contributions of African Americans in the curriculum of all subject areas.

As educators, it is our duty to ensure that every student understands that as a people, we draw strength from our diversity and differences. We can model these ideals and enable students to be heard by including, valuing, and respecting the contributions of every child. We must also remove barriers to opportunities and empower young people to make informed decisions, lift their own voices, and bring about real change. When we do that, our nation will grow stronger.

That is why we continue to invest in the New York State My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative, which is focused on closing and eliminating the opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color so that all young people have the chance to reach their full potential. We are committed to creating a generation of leaders who work hard to make the world a more just and equitable place through civic engagement.

To celebrate Black History Month, we are amplifying the voices of our young people who are committed to strengthening themselves and their communities. We are proud this month to share reflections from the extraordinary students in our MBK programs in schools across the state. These students are our future.

NYSED, together with The Education Trust—New York, is highlighting MBK students throughout the month on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn). The #MyHistoryMyFuture campaign, now in its fourth year, features inspiring quotes from outstanding students who are reflecting on the challenges of the past year, sharing how MBK has changed their lives, and expressing their hopes and dreams for the future.

Please follow the #MyHistoryMyFuture hashtag on social media to find student reflections throughout the month. I hope you enjoy learning about some of our exceptional students who are affecting positive change across New York State. These students work year-round in their schools and communities through their MBK programs to help improve outcomes for all young people, and their commitment is a shining example of the good that can come about by emphasizing diversity, social justice, and civic duty, across the disciplines throughout the school year. Thank you.

Dr. Lester W. Young, Jr. is the chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents.