The Howard Rye Institute

Building Tomorrow’s Skilled Leaders


Contact the Howard Rye Institute

Who was Howard Rye? 

Howard Rye, a Philadelphia activist, thinker and strategist, dedicated his short life to the concerns and rights of minorities on many issues such as: prison re-entry programs, youth education, gun control, economic and political engagement. He is one of the unsung heroes of the African-American community who devoted his life to breaking down the barriers minorities face and making systems more equitable.

What is the Howard Rye Institute (HRI)?

A Nine Month intensive training initiative building tomorrow’s leaders of African descent. HRI teaches young people of African descent to be community leaders, activists and organizers to advocate for themselves and their community. HRI fellows learn the importance of history and how it relates to issues communities face today; develop an understanding of how institutions work and the politics behind them; develop the political and economic thinking that goes into issues and system impacting our community. In developing the next generation of civic and political leaders, HRI uses experts and prominent leaders from universities, unions, government, business and nonprofits as trainers, speakers, and mentors.

How does HRI work?

Beginning in October through June, there are both required and elective activities:


  • Two half-day training sessions on Saturdays each month
  • Weekend retreat in November
  • Working with a mentor
  • Choosing an issue to focus on. Past issues have included health disparities, philanthropy, managing a nonprofit and economics of arts. youth violence


  • Attending any other UMN activities, i.e., workshops, community forums and meetings with elected officials.

Is it right for you?

  •  Are you of African descent, between the ages of 20 and 35?
  • Do you have at least a high school degree?
  • Are you disturbed by conditions in your community and do you want to do something about it?
  • Are you disciplined enough to do the work required to prepare yourself for community leadership, including attendance at all sessions
  • Are you determined to learn all that you can to help make lasting change in your community?

“HRI made me aware of the concept of ‘white saviors’ and the irony that they manage to keep people of color in their place while attempting to ‘save’ us. These nonprofits are disproportionally funded by foundations that cherry pick which issues they think are important for us, while we are relegated to window-dressing.”- Antionetta Kelley, 2013 HRI Fellow

What is the focus?

  • Critical thinking, analysis and effective oral and written communication are crucial skills to being a leader.
  • Lectures and workshops will be held on non-profit management and fundraising, community organizing, advocacy, public speaking, negotiation, planning, political analysis and practice.
  • The City of Boston is the classroom.
  • Learn about marketing and public relations from an expert in the African American Meeting House.
  • Understand how local city government works from Boston city councilors.
  • Visit art museums and learn from one of today’s most famous African American artists what the stumbling blocks are for Black artists.

You will be able to pick a mentor in your area of interest.

And you will be encouraged to work as an intern in one of UMN’s many initiatives, including:

  • The Boston Busing/Desegregation Project
  • Committed Brothers Network
  • Special Education
  • Community Conversations
  • Institute for Neighborhood Leadership
  • Prison/Re-entry Work

What does it cost?

  • HRI is free to those who are committed to doing the work.
  • In fact, you only pay $10 for each class you miss.
  • Why pay for a missed class instead of for a class attended? You need to invest in HRI. Group cohesion is critically important to developing the networks you need to move forward once the program ends.
  • Payment for missed classes is based on the old African-American cultural custom for the Burial Society. People paid into the society to build and maintain a cemetery plot. You paid into a kitty, in addition to dues, if you missed a meeting.

Be a Mentor to a Howard Rye Institute Fellow

HRI silhouette


Why are mentors a key to success for our fellows?

“I feel like I get so much more than I give as an HRI mentor.  The fellows are smart and eager to learn.  They’re very interested in absorbing whatever skills and information you offer.  Too often they don’t have many examples of successful, socially engaged Black people.  In my business as an African American health policy consultant, I can really immerse the fellow in the world of state politics and policy making.”

Dan Delaney, Principal, Delaney Policy Group

  • Many of our fellows have never known people of color who have the skills and networks they need to get ahead. Learning the skills is not enough. Our fellows need role models who employ and put into action the skills we teach everyday.
  • Mentors, particularly mentors of color, play a critical role in supporting our fellows.
  • Help someone and make a difference in his or her life.
  • For in every career, it is not just what you know, it is also who you know.

What do mentors do?

It varies from person to person. Some mentors set regular meetings and guide their fellows through rough spots. Others are sounding boards to help untangle problems or issues our fellows face. Some mentors have helped find jobs for their fellows. One mentor brought her fellow to board meetings of various organizations so she could get a broader view of how nonprofits work. Another mentor found her fellow a job in the philanthropy world. It depends on your time and the chemistry with your HRI fellow.