Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Tuesday announced the expansion of a city program for young black and Hispanic men that is focused on improving literacy, saying that better reading skills lead to success in school and, ultimately, better jobs.
Speaking at the Bronx Public Library, he said that the program, Young Adult Literacy Program, was expanding to 17 locations throughout the city, including schools, libraries and other sites, aided by an infusion of $3 million over the next three years.
The program’s expansion is the first component of the Young Men’s Initiative that the mayor introduced in August to great attention, financed partly with his own money.
The program aims to improve literacy for young adults who read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels. With the expansion, it will serve about 1,000 participants this year, the mayor said.
Mr. Bloomberg said the $127.5 million to finance the Young Men’s Initiative comes from his own foundation ($30 million), the billionaire investor George Soros ($30 million) and the city ($67.5 million).
He said that because so much of the money came from private sources, in addition to the city’s contributions, the approach could be more experimental.
“We have to do something, we can’t sit here and continue to let people drop out and just say, ‘That’s the way it is,’ ” he said. “That’s what society’s done for a long time, which is why we have the problem.”
This is the first of about 40 programs Mr. Bloomberg said he intended to introduce over the next year to aid black and Hispanic young men in the areas of health, education, employment and justice.
Community-based organizations will operate eight of the programs for the Young Adult Literacy Program; the other nine will be located in public libraries throughout the city.
Luis Chavez, who was at the mayor’s announcement, said that the literacy program has already made a difference in his life.
He said he dropped out of high school at age 16 and worked part time to help with family expenses.
“I didn’t really have high expectations for myself at that very point in life, which made it even harder for me,” Mr. Chavez said.
He said he joined the literacy program in January, and earned his G.E.D. in May. Since then, he has been hired to work at Barnard College and is preparing his application to CUNY for music engineering.
“I feel like doors have opened up a lot for me,” said Mr. Chavez, 20, who said he wouldn’t be employed at Barnard without his equivalency diploma. “And they’ve opened up a lot of opportunities.”
The mayor was applauded by other city officials, including Assemblyman Luis Rivera of the Bronx, who removed his navy cap with “Bronx” printed in bold, white letters as he addressed Mr. Bloomberg.
“Mr. Mayor, I take my hat off to you and all the organizations here today that have made a tremendous contribution to this great borough of ours,” Mr. Rivera said. He said he rarely takes the cap off in public, “but I only took it off momentarily for you and your great announcement.”