Hopeworks alumni Chris Church recently reached 1 year as a full time consulting professional at Slalom - a global consulting firm. In his current position, Chris partners with clients to develop human centered solutions for their business. 

Chris has faced innumerable challenges in his journey to where he is today. From feeling lost in life to being stuck in unfulfilling positions, he has worked hard to beat the odds. Now, he’s a Rutgers University Graduate, moving up the ladder at a global consulting firm, and still finds time to support his favorite sports teams!

“Hopeworks has prepared me for this journey by being an organization that emphasizes the exploration of technology while promoting self expression. The technical skills that I learned at Hopeworks, as well as a people first mentality have allowed me to succeed in my current role at Slalom.”

Happy 1 Year Work Anniversary Chris, we are proud to have been a part of your journey!

This month, after receiving hundreds of nominations, the team at Nonprofit Pro have selected Hopeworks Board Alumni TJ Lynch as the “Board Member of the Year!”

The award is well deserved. As the article shares:

“TJ Lynch began volunteering with Hopeworks eight years ago when the organization’s annual budget was less than $1 million and it was only able to serve 12 to 20 youths at a time. Thanks to Lynch’s guidance as treasurer and board member, he has helped the nonprofit — which pairs youths with real-world, on-the-job experience — grow substantially. Now, the organization is on track to earn more than $3.6 million and will place more than 100 youths in full-time jobs this fiscal year. Lynch’s thoughtful dedication to Hopeworks is what helped him become NonProfit PRO’s 2021 Board Member of the Year.

Throughout his time with the organization, Lynch has built the foundation for Hopeworks’ growth and led the Hopeworks team through a detailed analysis of its financial processes and procedures. He built the systems the nonprofit needed to succeed, and educated staff members on how to utilize the systems to work with the financials and program.

Not only did Lynch help pave the way for Hopeworks’ significant growth, he built a finance committee and financial and governance processes that will set the stage for Hopeworks’ future. He has ensured that the organization’s financial situation is stable and that its mission and strategic goals are integrated into its financial management, enabling the Hopeworks team to deliver on its promises.”

Three Hopeworks young professionals—Jase Elam, Jahmir Mungo, and KiAyko Walls—successfully completed the second Caruso Challenge program at Hopeworks, sponsored by the Uncommon Individual Foundation. The 15-week program, designed by Ben Pietrzyk while he was enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate Program, offers young people the opportunity to learn how successful entrepreneurs systematically solve problems. It also requires them to design and launch live micro-businesses within their own community. At the completion of the program, they earn three college credits.

Ben now offers the program through the Uncommon Individual Foundation, a Devon, PA nonprofit founded by Richard Caruso. (Pietryzk named the challenge after Dr. Caruso, because he was impressed with his commitment to young people.)

Paola Alamo, Jahani Boateng, Da’Shek Boone, Michael Cassel, and Michael McClain, completed the Caruso Challenge last November. They had such a great experience that the two nonprofits decided to team up and offer the program to a second cohort.

 In this round, which finished in May, Jase and Jahmir collaborated on one team, and KiAyko collaborated with a high school student named Shruti. Jase and Jamir focused their attention on the lack of comprehensive care for consumers of mental health services. KiAyko and his teammate explored ways to boost financial literacy among preteens, teens, and young adults.

Ben, and his colleagues Molly Furlong and Sean Hackman provided close mentorship throughout. They lead Jahmir, Jase and KiAyko through an interactive process that showed them how to shift their lens from lived experience to something of broader use for a larger population, how to gather “clean” information from interviews, and how to carefully analyze a problem and land on a practical, business-worthy solution.

Jase and Jahmir, for instance, began by looking at their own experience with the mental health system, and their sense that mental health inpatient treatment is, as Elam says, “not good comprehensive care for people who are in crisis.” They zeroed in further, and decided to explore with others what experiences they might have had with mental health treatment. Ultimately, they created a PDF -based product with a dual purpose. One was to help mental health consumers “track their own inpatient treatment so that they could better understand what happened, why they went into the hospital, what care they received, and what happened afterward,” and how long after they returned—if,  in fact, they did—for inpatient treatment, says Elam. 

Their other goal? To share data from users who permitted it, with stakeholders in the mental health arena so they could provide evidence of how quickly many mental health consumers are re-admitted for inpatient treatment. Enough data of this sort could provide the evidence needed for stakeholders to consider improving the quality of care.

“There is no good record keeping in terms of readmission rates to hospitals,” says Jase. “That framework doesn’t exist currently in the Philadelphia area. When you look up inpatient data, you can see how many individual hospitalizations there were. But you won’t get data on how many people went back to the hospital in 30 to 90 days. No one is tracking that data.”

Jase has plans to post the PDF on their own website for an ongoing venture, Nebulous Healing, as soon as they update the website. 

Walls said he and his teammate ultimately created a financial literacy course for youth that could be taught online and sold to parents who want their children to learn how to have a healthy relationship with money. 

All three considered the 15-week program time well-spent. 

Jase said that one of their biggest takeaways from the program was learning the value of slowing down, and “finely analyzing what that key part [of a problem] is that needs fixing . . .” rather than just identifying a problem and immediately trying to fix it. ‘It’s better to really take time to dive deeper into what the problem is,” they said.

Jahmir especially appreciated learning how to do informational interviews “using questions that aren’t leading or making the person believe what I want to believe, so I can get an honest answer out of them.” KiAyko also cited learning how to properly interview others as a highlight for him. He said he enjoyed “the chance to brainstorm with strangers and find out how differently people think, compared to me.”

Each said they would recommend the Caruso Challenge program to others. “The whole experience, for me, was really amazing,” says Jahmir. “It was great to learn more about entrepreneurship and what goes into it.”

Three Hopeworks young professionals—Jase Elam, Jahmir Mungo, and KiAyko Walls—successfully completed the second Caruso Challenge program at Hopeworks, sponsored by the Uncommon Individual Foundation. The 15-week program, designed by Ben Pietrzyk while he was enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate Program, offers young people the opportunity to learn how successful entrepreneurs systematically solve problems. It also requires them to design and launch live micro-businesses within their own community. At the completion of the program, they earn three college credits.

Ben now offers the program through the Uncommon Individual Foundation, a Devon, PA nonprofit founded by Richard Caruso. (Pietryzk named the challenge after Dr. Caruso, because he was impressed with his commitment to young people.)

 Paola Alamo, Jahani Boateng, Da’Shek Boone, Michael Cassel, and Michael McClain,  completed the Caruso Challenge last November. They had such a great experience that the two nonprofits decided to team up and offer the program to a second cohort.

  In this round, which finished in May, Jase and Jahmir collaborated on one team, and KilAyko collaborated with a high school student named Shruti. Jase and Jamir focused their attention on the lack of comprehensive care for consumers of mental health services. KiAyko and his teammate explored ways to boost financial literacy among preteens, teens, and young adults.

Ben, and his colleagues Molly Furlong and Sean Hackman provided close mentorship throughout. They lead Jahmir, Jase and KiAyko through an interactive process that showed them how to shift their lens from lived experience to something of broader use for a larger population, how to gather “clean” information from interviews, and how to carefully analyze a problem and land on a practical, business-worthy solution.

Jase and Jahmir, for instance, began by looking at their own experience with the mental health system, and their sense that mental health inpatient treatment is, as Elam says, “not good comprehensive care for people who are in crisis.” They zeroed in further, and decided to explore with others what experiences they might have had with mental health treatment. Ultimately, they created a PDF -based product with a dual purpose. One was to help mental health consumers “track their own inpatient treatment so that they could better understand what happened, why they went into the hospital, what care they received, and what happened afterward,” and how long after they returned—if,  in fact, they did—for inpatient treatment, says Elam. 

Their other goal? To share data from users who permitted it, with stakeholders in the mental health arena so they could provide evidence of how quickly many mental health consumers are re-admitted for inpatient treatment. Enough data of this sort could provide the evidence needed for stakeholders to consider improving the quality of care.

“There is no good record keeping in terms of readmission rates to hospitals,” says Jase. “That framework doesn’t exist currently in the Philadelphia area. When you look up inpatient data, you can see how many individual hospitalizations there were. But you won’t get data on how many people went back to the hospital in 30 to 90 days. No one is tracking that data.”

Jase has plans to post the PDF on their own website for an ongoing venture, Nebulous Healing, as soon as they update the website. 

Walls said he and his teammate ultimately created a financial literacy course for youth that could be taught online and sold to parents who want their children to learn how to have a healthy relationship with money. 

All three considered the 15-week program time well-spent. 

Jase said that one of their biggest takeaways from the program was learning the value of slowing down, and “finely analyzing what that key part [of a problem] is that needs fixing . . .” rather than just identifying a problem and immediately trying to fix it. ‘It’s better to really take time to dive deeper into what the problem is,” they said.

Jahmir especially appreciated learning how to do informational interviews “using questions that aren’t leading or making the person believe what I want to believe, so I can get an honest answer out of them.” KiAyko also cited learning how to properly interview others as a highlight for him. He said enjoyed “the chance to brainstorm with strangers and find out how differently people think, compared to me.”

Each said they would recommend the Caruso Challenge program to others. “The whole experience, for me, was really amazing,” says Jahmir. “It was great to learn more about entrepreneurship and what goes into it.”

COVID-19 may have presented many challenges but it also offered opportunity -- opportunity to learn what IS possible.

What did we learn? We learned, that the young people who train and work here are resilient and adaptable. Working remotely on virtual platforms they continued to complete training and internships and are getting hired by companies around the region. And many are entrepreneurs, launching start up businesses.

What's changed? They are not going to work in corporate offices but are joining the ranks of remote workforces that will likely remain remote.

The next challenge? Providing professional spaces that might not be available at home.

The solution? The Burton and Mindy Cohen Foundation established the Burton R. Cohen Technology Center located down the hall from Hopeworks with support from David and Jane Hummel and other Hopeworks friends. This co-working space offers alumni memberships that include desk space, "phone booths" for client calls, conference room privileges, and high-speed internet all in a collaborative environment. Additionally, ongoing professional development opportunities and mentorship are provided.

Join us at noon on Thursday, April 1st for the virtual grand opening! Register here.

“When you’re working at home you have to deal with your parents, static, pets, and life in general. When you’re working in an office you can block those things out or deal with them later. Having a space like the Burton R. Cohen Technology Center will help get me and others into the mindset that it’s time to work and we can accomplish more.”

“The Burton R. Cohen Technology Center will offer me a general workspace because I always struggle working from home. Having a remote space, even if it’s just a little corner, makes me feel like I’m getting things done and not interrupting anyone else.”~ Ulises Ventura: Hopeworks Alum, Contractor at PureIntergration, Member of the Burton R. Cohen Technology Center

“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:

Corey Thorpe

Willem Schrieks

Patrick Findlator

James Hill

Charlene Newbill

Leaundra Mccullough

Kayla Evans

Sekinah Brodie

Kayana Clue

Hopeworks Alumnus Marcel Njighe-Tezeh shares his inspiring journey!

Gabrielle Lee and Yanlexis Arizaga. Hopeworks Alum, have been working hard to create a space that will give youth in our community a chance to broadcast their work (whether business services, art in any form, or spoken word performances). "Our objective is to strengthen the art community in Camden, NJ and we need your help to make that happen!"


Interested in learning more? Check for updates on @camdenyouthartgallery on Instagram and Facebook!
Please share this with anyone you know who would be interested in applying or supporting in any way. Link for sponsors, artists, entrepreneurs, and/or volunteer applications: https://lnkd.in/eVv-TdS Note: Artists and entrepreneurs can apply to more than one!"

You can’t always anticipate every opportunity that may come your way, but when it does, how you respond to it it is up to you. I’ve been connected to Hopeworks for nearly four years now, going through the training, internship, and finally becoming an alumni - working at professional jobs while completing my education. I’ve gotten to see how Hopeworks has grown and expanded and I witnessed the impact Hopeworks has had, not only on the youth that they serve, but the community. When approached with the position for Alumni Coordinator, I was taken aback initially because I was intimidated by having to live up to the amazing job my predecessor had done and worried about matching the drive it took for him to build the alumni council to where it is today. 

My position as Alumni Coordinator will involve reaching out to and maintaining contact with individuals who came through Hopeworks, completed their internship, and entered the professional world of their choosing. In addition to communication upkeep, I will be planning our alumni related events including the monthly alumni dinner and the quarterly alumni events. The dinners and events will not only allow Hopeworks to continue to support and encourage the continued growth of our alumni, but also provide a space for alumni to remain in touch with one another and stay up-to-date on how they are all progressing in their respective fields, and be a resource for each other and for current trainees and interns. I am looking forward to officially working alongside the outstanding staff and phenomenal youth as well as Hopeworks amazing alumni.

"I've been with the HIVE for a month now as an operations intern. The HIVE at Spring Point was founded to amplify voice, choice and opportunity for young people and supports a collection of organizations and experts that focus on positive youth development. I'm providing administrative support by managing the front desk, scheduling events and meetings, coordinating outside vendors, organizing the space and files as needed, etc. The data management and interpersonal skills I learned from Hopeworks has made my transition into this working space a breeze. Not only that, the warm environment and team here have made me feel welcomed and greatly supported. I am excited for the future projects and skills I'll be developing here." -Monica

Hopeworks Alumna, Monica started her training in 2016. Her interest in art and aspirations to become an art therapist never wavered, nor did her passion for helping others. Working and navigating her way through college, Monica demonstrated both resiliency and dedication. Her journey from the Hopeworks training room, now to her position at The HIVE is a great example of what it means to thrive!

808 Market St 3rd Floor
Camden, NJ 08102
(856) 365-4673
Hopeworks is a 501(c)(3) non-for-profit organization, EIN: 31-1660671.
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