About Us

Forward Promise is a national program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to support culturally-responsive practices that buffer the effects of historical and systemic trauma on boys and young men of color. RWJF has funded the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education to manage the Forward Promise National Program Office (NPO). The NPO has two strategic locations, one in Philadelphia, PA and one in Huntsville, Alabama. 

The NPO will facilitate grants to organizations throughout the United States, provide technical assistance and field-building support, and disseminate timely research to those seeking to positively impact the lives of boys and young men of color.


Forward Promise’s mission is to undergird, strengthen, and stimulate the creation of supportive networks and relationships that surround BYMOC and their families – healthy village-making.


We envision healthy villages and a larger society that raise and empower boys and young men of color to heal, grow and thrive.


We believe:

  • The transformative genius, resilience and energy of boys and young men of color are ancestral, and have the power to change the systemic, interpersonal, and cultural narratives and conditions that continuously deny and assault their humanity
  • Trauma must be addressed and healed before boys and young men of color can reach their fullest potential
  • A healthy, trauma-informed village will raise healthy boys and young men of color.
  • Boys and young men of color are critically important members of their communities and contributors to society.

Our Approach

Our approach to building healthy networks for BYMOC will involve preparing individuals, families, organizations and institutions to face the power of the humanity of BYMOC, apply culturally-responsive programming to identify historically-driven trauma experiences, and record and share diverse examples of health transformation. Standing on the shoulders of previous Forward Promise grantees, the new NPO will carry on the work of healthy village-making.

Research reveals that historical and contemporary oppression, discrimination, and poverty have led to negative physical, mental and emotional health outcomes across life-spans and generations (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2014). Dehumanization is a core dynamic that plagues many health promotion and recovery problems in our society. Through histories of colonization and racism, BYMOC have faced significant hardships that have led to the creation and perpetuation of historical, spiritual, cultural, social, emotional, and physical traumas. These effects impact the systems, such as educational, justice, health and employment systems, with which BYMOC interact on a daily basis.

Recognizing the humanity of BYMOC would seem at first to be a given – not needing explanation, justification, or promotion. Unfortunately, appreciating the humanity of BYMOC is a struggle for many people who interact with them from preschool through young adulthood, as well as many BYMOC themselves. Improving the quality of how systems and their personnel relate to BYMOC can reduce trauma reactions and improve their health in areas of learning, resilience, self-care, help-seeking, social mobility and even sleep (Winn, Iruka, Buansi, McKinney, & Stevenson, 2012; Stevenson, 2014).

The Forward Promise NPO will target culturally-responsive healing promotion solutions that lead to healing, growth, and thriving in the lives of BYMOC as defined by their communities. Defining a healthy village may differ across the diverse communities of BYMOC.

Click the icons above to learn more about our approach

Healing is recognizing trauma and recovery.

Healing is seeing the need for health recovery. Healing from various traumatic experiences requires a lens that views BYMOC as human and deserving of health despite their current life circumstances. It is important because unaddressed trauma effects increase negative health outcomes. To recognize trauma (sources, effects, resolutions), is the beginning of healing.

Growing is practicing health recovery daily.

Growing is engaging life struggles with a healthy lens. Growing describes how BYMOC come to embrace healthy, culturally-responsive narratives, lenses, rationales, and behaviors for engaging and overcoming the challenges of trauma recovery. If healing is seeing the effects and resolutions of trauma, growing is using that awareness in one’s daily life to make healthy choices in self-care, relationships, schooling, and career.

Thriving is enjoying one’s health choices.

Thriving involves sustaining the practice of health recovery through activism. Thriving describes the capacity of BYMOC to actively make choices that lead to long-term, healthy outcomes for the sake of self, family and community. BYMOC will thrive when the skills and mindsets of culturally-relevant healing models have been adopted for self-protection and the protection of others in the community.

Our Team

Howard C. Stevenson, Ph.D.


Dr. Howard Stevenson is the Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education, Professor of Africana Studies, and former Chair of the Applied Psychology and Human Development...

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Rhonda Bryant

Deputy Director

Ms. Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant is President/CEO at The Moriah Group, an international consulting firm, based in Huntsville, Alabama. Ms. Bryant has over 20 years of work...

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Erik Estrada

Senior Program Associate

Erik Estrada has over 15 years of public service, including work in philanthropy, municipal government, and public education. His introduction to philanthropy came...

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Kelli Dulan

Program Associate

Kelli Dulan has more than 20 years of combined experience in administrative support, organizational and project management. She has mentored and worked directly with...

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Jason Javier-Watson, Ed.D.

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Dr. Jason Javier-Watson is a postdoctoral fellow in the Racial Empowerment Collaborative (REC) in the Human Development and Quantitative Methods Division at the University...

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Jamie Scarborough

Adminstrative Assistant

Jamie Scarborough brings 15 years of management, IT, accounting and human resources experience to the Forward Promise team. She has worked in office management since she entered the workforce after graduation, primarily...

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Danielle Siwek

Administrative Assistant

Danielle Siwek lends her background as a licensed clinical social worker and a trained sexual assault advocate to the Forward Promise team. Before becoming a therapist, she also worked behind the scenes in statistics...

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