Hi, my name is Natalie Ortiz, and I was referred to HopeWorks by a friend. Before Hopeworks, I didn't know what I wanted to do in the future. I originally wanted to be a Cosmetologist and gave it a try, but the school was so expensive, I had no other choice but to drop out. After that, I gave a thought to college but never really put my focus there. So I ended up working part-time jobs here and there. Over the years, my mom and family always found that I was good with tech and they constantly told me to find a career in technology. Before Hopeworks, I was thinking of going to college so that I could get work in technology, but then I was told about this unique opportunity that Hopeworks provides for all youths. They told me it was a safe and incredible place to be. My friend helped me enroll and helped me throughout the beginning of the training. Since I started, I was constantly receiving good feedback from staff and other trainees and that motivated me to do better and work harder. One thing that motivated me, for sure, was my boyfriend who is in the army. Seeing him doing bigger and better for him and his family helped me realize I wanted to be a better me for the future.
Throughout my time in Hopeworks, I’ve gained a lot of different skills; skills that I am very excited to show in the future. I have learned to code and I really enjoyed it. Once I got to the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) module, I found it completely fascinating and interesting. I found working my way around the maps and finding data very interesting. I believe that module was one I finished the fastest. It was so easy, yet so interesting to me. I was able to get an internship with the GIS department, which I was extremely excited to start. Since I started, I’ve learned a lot about maps and the data in a lot of different maps. I feel that because of Hopeworks, I will develop a lot of different skills before I go out and get the future I am working so hard for and that's why I will always be grateful for Hopeworks and all of the amazing staff in the office. Because of Hopeworks, I believe my future will be bright and filled with happiness. I gained hope here that I will always be able to support myself and help my family before, during, and after Hopeworks.
David Clark was attending high school in Camden and was struggling to stay focused and motivated with virtual learning. David admits he was more interested in sports than in academics, so high school during a pandemic was a challenge. He didn’t feel supported and left school in December 2020, but knew he needed to find another path. His friend was a Hopeworks GIS intern and David saw that despite some personal challenges, his friend had opportunities at Hopeworks and life was improving for him. He saw his friend making plans and achieving goals, so he started training that same month.
David shared that early in the training, he continued to have trouble staying focused. His schedule was keeping him from getting enough sleep to be productive. David’s Job Readiness Assessment (JRA), conducted during his training, made David aware of the patterns that were keeping him from moving forward. He immediately made the changes needed to get to work on time, be productive and professional, and was able to complete the training program in February. David then earned an internship in the training room helping other youth achieve their goals!
Obtaining a H.S. Diploma is one important goal for David. He is an Adult Basic Skills (ABS) student at Hopeworks preparing for the HiSet test to earn a diploma. David took the first of five tests on March 19th! With an entrepreneurial spirit and the dream to own a business in the future, David feels that Hopeworks has provided the tools he needs to make it happen.
David expressed his gratitude by sharing, “Hopeworks has so many opportunities. I get so much support and learn skills and everyone here is very positive. Outside of Hopeworks, I don’t get that or the guidance I need. I know I need to do the right things and I’m learning the right steps to take at Hopeworks. I stay motivated by the positivity here. I feel more at home at Hopeworks than I did at home.”
“If I learned anything from being at Hopeworks, I learned that resilience is one of the keys to success. Life will throw anything and everything at you but in order to receive what you want and desire, you have to keep trying and never give up. Despite the biggest curve ball that we are all going through, the Coronavirus, we still managed to keep things together at Hopeworks by working remotely from home, practicing social distancing, and taking all precautions if we are needed in the office.
Before the Coronavirus hit, I was a Rowan graduate with a degree that I thought would easily lead to a job coming out of college, but I struggled with finding a job related to my degree. I came across Hopeworks while I was with my sister at Camden County College. As she was registering for classes I noticed a flyer on one of the bulletin boards. It caught my eye and I decided to give them a call. About a month later I scheduled a tour and since then, I have never looked back nor regretted the decision.
During my time at Hopeworks, I was able to become a part of the Youth Healing Team as an intern. Becoming a member of the team has helped me improve my presentation skills, become a more empathetic listener, and I developed new relationships with different organizations. All of this was achieved while working remotely from home. I am grateful for all of the opportunities that Hopeworks has given me. With the help of Hopeworks I recently started my position as a Benefits Specialist at Benefits Data Trust.”
Allissa Connor came to Hopeworks after completing high school. She was interested in design and coding and watched her brother Justin succeed at achieving his goals and earn a job as a Salesforce administrator. After working hard to complete the training, complete an internship in Hopeworks web department, and attend college, all while juggling a second and sometimes third job, Allissa has been hired full time at OpenForge as a Quality Assurance Designer.
OpenForge CEO Jedi shared that Allissa will be responsible for testing products and identifying deficiencies within them; as well as working closely with the development team to resolve issues and ensure the delivery of quality products. "She was a good candidate for this position because she is organized and detail-oriented."
Allissa joins Hopeworks alum Jared Bradshaw at OpenForge. Jared was recently promoted to Marketing Coordinator and when a spot opened up, Jedi asked Jared to help recruit other Hopeworks Alumni. "Hopeworks alumni are suited to joining our team as they’re well-rounded, motivated and eager to learn!," said Jedi.
"Hi! My name is Jeriamyah, and I was referred to Hopeworks by my mentor at College Together. Until then, I never really had a solid plan for my future. I tried college, and then a few trade programs. I thought of game design but didn’t commit. That is how I ended up attending a trade school for IT (Information Technology). I have always liked technology and figured I would want to end up within that work space but was never really sure how to enter it. Out of everything I learned, only one thing truly piqued my interest and that was coding. I was introduced to C++ and found it fun even though I was doing very basic coding. So I looked for something that involved coding. But I didn’t find anything right away. It was only when I started to consider college again that I heard about Hopeworks. I was going to College Together and my mentor, Oscar Wang, not only introduced me to the program, but also helped me enroll in it. The rest is history.
Through Hopeworks, I have gained goals and I now feel closer to achieving something I thought was unattainable for me. I never thought I would be able to get my feet wet in coding, let alone gain an internship. Thanks to Hopeworks, I was able to get a Web Development internship with Annie Rose Webb. Since I started, I have learned a lot. I am becoming more and more comfortable in Web Development. Thanks to Annie Rose and the Web Department, I now feel closer to reaching my goals. Through the experience, I am gaining hope that I can have a good career and earn enough to support my family, especially my siblings."
Hi! My name is Kayla Wilson and I came to Hopeworks on recommendation from another organization, called Valley Youth House. Originally, I came to Hopeworks to build my technical skills to grow my mutual aid collective, Metamorphosis, and to pursue college. Once I started gaining experience through the training room I realized that there was a lot I could offer to Hopeworks with my previous nonprofit experience and peer support. Working with Hopeworks training room manager, Erich Smith, we were able to combine two existing internships: the Training Room Internship and the Youth Healing Team internship to create a Community Building internship. Community building is especially important at this time of virtual learning and working, as many youth, myself included, came to Hopeworks during the pandemic.
As the Community Building Intern, I facilitate two groups per week. One of the groups is focused on the professional development and networking aspects of community building. The other group is a support group that focuses on the social-emotional aspects of community building and gives our trainees and interns a place to connect. Since starting my internship about two months ago I am able to meet with 3 different youth one-on-one to support their needs as well as facilitate a group chat with 10+ active members.
We have great participation so far in our two weekly groups and I am looking forward to bringing more of my trauma-informed training, provided by the Youth Healing Team, into the community space as well. I love being able to support my peers in a way that feels meaningful, especially with times like we are experiencing now! Often it feels that since we are virtual we miss out on the casual talk and bonding that happens in an office setting. I am excited to help myself and others at Hopeworks to have a safe place to connect and relax with each other. I am also grateful to Hopeworks for being so supportive of this new role and helpful in implementing it.
“The idea was nothing new; it wasn’t as though no one had mentioned wanting to do this or something similar in the past. It just took enough willing young people to take the necessary steps to see it through. Hopeworks is a fantastic organization that, over the years, has provided skills and opportunities to youth, and for as long as it remains, it will continue to do so. As Hopeworks grows in size, it will also continue to improve how it impacts youth as they train and beyond. Thus, the implementation of an Alumni Advisory Board became a reality and members were selected to help lead and provide an “early career” professional perspective for Hopeworks. We want to help push the ideas that will benefit more Hopeworks youth and alumni and find a way to allocate the necessary resources that would support their professional progression.
Members were selected for their passion and desire to serve and recruited across multiple disciplines/fields so they could offer different perspectives on how to approach projects. We have in mind the idea to tackle the business aspects of helping youth as well as emotional and mental health challenges. It is essential to understand youth’s lived experiences, create more positive experiences and help reduce negativity moving forward for the individual and the collective community. In totality, we are here to represent and help significantly increase positive change in the lives of Hopeworks youth and alumni.”
Meet the Hopeworks Alumni Advisory Board Members:
From LinkedIn, Jan. 10, 2021:
Today is my 23rd birthday 🎊 and I have to be honest I didn't believe I'd make it past 18 years old. I've had my share of trials that I somehow was able to survive through. Hopeworks has been a huge factor in my survival and the staff among the organization literally have saved my life over the 5+ years I've been a part of the organization. The extent that they go to helping the youth within Camden County and expose them with opportunities to better themselves is truly inspiring to me.
With that being said Monday I will be starting as the new Youth Training Specialist. From lost teenager, to trainee, to intern and now becoming an official staff member. I will now have the opportunity as well to inspire the next generation that will lead us into the future.
I thank Dan Rhoton for trusting me with this role and I promise to give it my all just like he has for us everyday.
View his original post and connect with Da’Shek on LinkedIn!
Hopeworks Alumnus Marcel Njighe-Tezeh shares his inspiring journey!
Coming to Hopeworks, I was unsure of what career path I wanted to take. I was working part time as a home health aid and needed a second job. I came across Hopeworks on a job posting site and reached out. I was called the next day for an interview. Thankfully, I took the interview because Hopeworks introduced me to my current career path in website development!
After a long job search during the pandemic, Hopeworks connected me to Being Design, where I now have a professional job! I’m able to continue to grow as a developer and provide website maintenance for their clients. I’m thankful to be able to continue to build my skill set and to learn more everyday.
“Hopeworks has defined a clear career path for me and a still growing skill set in web development. I’m honored to hold the title of an alumna as it shows with hard work, you can move forward and progress.” - Beth Antrilli