I just rode my bike over to Hopeworks this morning. It was great to cross the Ben Franklin Bridge–what a beautiful morning it is. It was doubly good because I am back at Hopeworks after being away at a conference. Patrick and I had the opportunity of attending the BOOST–Best Out Of School Training–Conference in California. We presented Hopeworks. Going to a conference is always great to meet new folks and especially to share ideas. In this case, I learned so much more about the “after school movement” and how so many states are interested in meeting the needs of youth after school.
What I like about going to conferences is the learning—I do that by meeting other people, going to conference sessions and talking about Hopeworks. During this trip, what I learned was how different Hopeworks actually is. Whereas many after school programs rely on state funding, Hopeworks has three businesses, writes grants and has a great set of supporters who help us make our impact each day. That isn’t true for many other programs.
Another distinctive difference is our focus on youth who have dropped out of school. “After School Programs” work with youth who are in school and stay “after” to attend programming. The programs try and make a seamless connection to the school day. Hopeworks doesn’t do that. We are not located at a school and we choose to work with youth who are both in school and out of school. This combination creates a rare mixing of youth—working side by side on projects and sharing in a combined success.
Finally, what I learned in California–and it wasn’t a new learning, just a great reminder!–was how passionate the staff is that works here. We do a lot each day—from managing two different youth cohorts to running three businesses all the while working towards purpose. It is tough work—you never know what someone is going to bring through the door or what curve ball is coming your way. I am grateful for the my colleagues who do this work day in day out with such passion. I am grateful to the volunteers who show up and work individually with the youth—making a huge difference one literacy session after another. And I am grateful to those who share in our impact by supporting our efforts through golfing at our golf tournament, coming to the annual dinner, buying a subscription in the Fun In The Sun Jobs program, etc. All in all, it is an amazing collection of energy, life and passion that is working together for the youth of Camden.
I didn’t have to go to California to learn that, as I know that; but it sure was nice to be reminded again!