It’s amazing what hope can do for each and every one of us – it gives us the strength to pursue our ambitions. It fills us with the excitement and confidence to make our dreams become a reality.
As the Executive Director of Hopeworks, located in Camden, New Jersey, I am thankful to be part of creating hope and positive change through our youth services every day.
While Hopeworks covers a small area – just one city – the impact is immeasurable. Today in Camden more than 50 percent of children live below the poverty line and about 70 percent of youth do not go on to complete high school. It also has one of the highest rates of violence in the country. The youth in Camden face many obstacles to advancing their education and careers, and at Hopeworks we are working to remove these barriers.
Hopeworks empowers youth to identify their D.R.E.A.M.S. (Dynamic, Realizable Efforts to Attain and Maintain Success) and own their future, by focusing on computer training, teaching website development and design, data collection and mapping, computer networking and repair, and video applications.
Each year we work with 200-250 youth, with about 60 youth in our program at any one time. Since our founding in March of 2000:
- Nearly 1,000 youth from our target population have visited Hopeworks
- Trainees have gone on to get jobs, attend college, and earn GEDs
- Our trainees have developed websites for more than 180 paying clients, mainly local, national, and international small businesses and non-profit organizations
- Our GIS business has served more than 60 clients, producing parcel maps, digitizing land use information, and creating online mapping functionality with Google Maps
- We have developed lasting partnerships with six different organizations, including Symantec, that help us to accomplish our mission
A historic partnership
Some things are just meant to be. Twelve years ago while on a plane I had the luck of sitting next to a woman, Sue Rich, who was an employee of Symantec. We hit it off instantly and after telling Sue a bit more about Hopeworks, we quickly discovered a shared passion for youth empowerment and education.
Sue also saw alignment with many aspects of Symantec’s commitment to corporate responsibility. In particular, working with Hopeworks supports the company’s belief that students should have access to a quality education, especially those programs associated with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Sue pioneered our historical partnership with Symantec that has had lasting impacts on the success of our program and youth. Central to our partnership is Symantec Week, which began as a program of business visits, where Camden youth had the chance to visit companies and experience what different professional roles looked like. Symantec Week has since expanded into three days of celebration each summer – offering activities and learning to the Camden community.
This year’s event highlights included a tour of the New York Stock Exchange, volunteering at the New Visions Shelter in North Gate Park, a technology scavenger hunt, and a training program where community members were taught about online safety, computer backup, and how to use cloud technology to make their small businesses and non-profits more efficient.
Additionally, current Symantec employee Angel Rodriguez joined Hopeworks' summer program, and after a gaining valuable web development skills, went on to attend Saint Joseph’s University computer sciences program where he interned with Symantec his Junior year. Following graduation in 2011, Angel was offered a full-time position at Symantec where today he plays a crucial role in product development as a lead web developer. Angel was also just named Hopeworks 2013 Alumni of Year, one of only eight alumni to receive this prestigious award.
Words cannot express my appreciation to each and every youth that has participated in our program and the organizations that help us achieve our mission. It is our students’ drive and dedication, along with the support of companies like Symantec, that continue to make Hopeworks D.R.E.A.M.S. become a reality.
Father Jeff Putthoff is Executive Director of Hopeworks 'N Camden.