After 23 years of operating programs exclusively in a residential setting, Boys Hope Girls Hope started the first academy in 2004. The expansion to an out-of-school-time model was an acknowledgment of the many young people who have support structures at home but are still undeniably in need of access and opportunity. Today, eight of Boys Hope Girls Hope’s 16 affiliates run academies, which have shown impressive outcomes in delivering transformational educational, social, and life experiences that ensure every motivated scholar becomes a well-educated, career-ready person for others. Boys Hope Girls Hope of Colorado is one such affiliate serving over 100 young people in two academy locations. With strong school partnerships, a committed team, and our unique, comprehensive approach to youth development, Mary Fran Tharp, executive director and guest blog contributor, shares a glimpse into this remarkable program.
Motion. Change. Potential.
All words in the definition of energy. They are also words to describe the Boys Hope Girls Hope of Colorado academy. I’ve been asked over the years to describe our program. Over and over, I go back to energy, potential, motion, and change.
Many of you know the energy you pour into your child’s college applications. Yes, it is your child’s college application, but they don’t seem to automatically get done. Those essays get refined. Maybe there is scholarship research and then more applications. There is a little poking and prodding to update the list of activities. Don’t forget the college visits and the planning around those! Emails start coming in with acceptances and financial aid packages. And then there is the drama (dare I say energy) around decision day. Imagine that multiplied from your child to two or three or five or fifteen Boys Hope Girls Hope seniors! Talk about energy expended!
But before college applications happen, there are lots of pieces in motion at Boys Hope Girls Hope of Colorado to prepare for them. Some are academics pieces, like Book Club, Finance Fridays, or meeting with tutors. Some are social pieces, like interacting with board members or career panelists. Others are engaging in social justice activities like volunteering with elementary school students, serving meals at the local shelter, or participating in a peaceful march. Finding jobs and internships includes resume review, conversations about attire, and interview practice. Boys Hope Girls Hope of Colorado puts in motion a multitude of opportunities for our 60+ scholars throughout the year – summer included.
Creating community through fellowship is integral to the work that our affiliate does. That may be over a meal. It might be in a virtual call, led by a scholar, teaching other scholars how to make cake pops. It might be over a game of Jenga.
There is an energy created at Boys Hope Girls Hope of Colorado. I know it because the scholars show up regularly. They really don’t have to. No one is forcing them to be on Zoom or in the classroom after school. They are there because they want to be. They know that our team is there to guide them, to help them achieve their potential and dreams.
Their goals and their paths are all different, but education is the map to achieve the goals. It may be at a four-year college or university. It may be a community college. It may be community college for two years then a transfer to a four-year university. We’re in with them along that path. We have a 0% summer melt! We make sure they show up to college in the fall, deposits paid, orientations completed, classes selected, with sheets for an extra-long bed, if they are living on campus.
Just when our now collegians think they are on their own, Boys Hope Girls Hope of Colorado is reaching out to ask about classes, if they are liking their roommate, and what the food is like. Boys Hope Girls Hope scholarships are applied for and provided. Care packages are mailed. Encouraging texts sent. Our collegians are asked to speak to our scholars about college. Time flies and four years later our senior collegians are preparing to job search—from internships to their first job in their career—working on resumes and interview skills. It seems we have come full circle.
I’ve asked donors why they support Boys Hope Girls Hope of Colorado’s academy program. What do they see as our differential in the youth development world? Our long-term commitment to youth through college is cited. The comprehensive, individualized programming is a highlight. We are strategic. We are systematic. And we’re more. We’re also an extension of the scholar’s family, community, and network.
Activating potential. Creating change. (Re)Moving barriers. What an awesome way to expend energy!