"The word 'hope' for me stands for the future, and overall just how I want my life to be something that my mom can be proud of."
Hope Journals is a new video and blog series which tells just a few of the amazing stories of young people who have the kind of will and perseverance to do the work, to be the first in their families to go to college, to be humble servant leaders in their circles of influence, and to use their hard-fought achievements for something beyond themselves.
At Boys Hope Girls Hope, we know each scholar has a unique story. When we say we serve “young people in need” that can mean a lot of things, and it’s not exactly the same thing for any two scholars. While we encourage scholars to own and tell their stories, we also understand and respect what and how they choose to do so. Each time a scholar opens up and lets others into their lives, they are giving a gift to the community. As we prepared to work with Jenny in Southern California, we were consciously aware of that.
On February 24th, Patience and I left Kansas City on a 5:00 pm Southwest Airlines flight for Los Angeles with our suitcases and a large bag full camera equipment in tow. The headlines that week read “Coronavirus has ‘pandemic potential,'” and while some travelers were wearing face masks, airports were still buzzing with people. Some gave off a silently cautious vibe, and I, for one, was using more hand sanitizer than usual.
Patience Randle, my colleague and travel companion, is the other member of the Network Headquarters marketing team. She’s an accomplished video and social media content creator. I had fallen in love with a video docu-series created by a hotel brand and had a vision of telling scholar stories through a similar lens. I was thrilled that Patience brought her experience to Boys Hope Girls Hope to make it possible.
Weaving through the darkness and construction zones led to a few wrong turns before finding our hotel. We traded having a sit-down meal for grabbing Chick-fil-A from a nearby drive-through. Once we lugged everything inside, we parted to our rooms, both very tired, but excited for the day that we’d been dreaming about.
The next morning, we met Executive Director of Boys Hope Girls Hope of Southern California Tim Rogers to finalize locations for the shoot. It was a nice day, so we sat outside to appreciate the crisp California breeze. Tim is a congenial, happy, and easy-going person. I commented that it seems he never gets rattled. And, for someone who hadn’t been getting a lot of sleep lately, he was still all smiles as he proudly showed us the latest photos of his new baby girl. We moved from catching up and talking about the video project into his affiliate’s most notable successes and challenges.
With two residential homes and eight collegians, Tim has been working on a plan for how to best help his collegians cover the gap between their financial aid/scholarship packages and the rising costs of tuition.
Patience and I left our visit with Tim even more stoked to get started. We had just enough time to make a quick stop at a local camera shop and grab some lunch. Patience had never eaten In-N-Out Burger, so we had the full experience of standing in line, sliding into an iconic red booth, enjoying our burgers “animal style,” (fried in mustard) with French fries in white paper trays adorned with red palm trees.
Our plan was to shoot Jenny’s interview at the house first, then visit our other four potential locations before dark, giving us around six hours. While Tim went to pick Jenny up from school, Patience gathered b-roll around the house and decided where she would set up for the interview.
Jenny is a freshman in high school. We’d had a phone conference to get to know each other a bit before we arrived, but she was understandably quiet and a bit shy when we first met in person. On that call, we explained that the video would be about her story, what she’s passionate about, what she wants for her future, and how Boys Hope Girls Hope has impacted her life.
To start, we took a tour of our Southern California affiliate’s comfortable girls’ home. Walking in, there’s a living room to the left and tile floors that lead straight into a large eat-in kitchen. Big chalkboards in the dining area were full of doodles and notes. The home has ample bedrooms for six scholars, a live-in collegian and team members. Behind the kitchen is a lovely sitting room with an inspirational quote about hope on the wall. Through glass doors is an expansive and homey study hall where each scholar has her own desk decorated with photos, knick-knacks and supplies.
A border of college pennants lines the top of the room. They are a constant reminder of the many girls who’ve lived there, graduated, gone to college, and the expectations of our current scholars.
In addition to his duties as Executive Director, Tim is also the home’s landscaper. The amazing backyard has spectacular views spanning all the way to Anaheim. There is a patio with a picnic table, a sitting area under a spacious wood pergola covered in floral vines, and an expanse of fragrant orange and lemon trees. We were told that the girls have watched the Disney fireworks from there on a clear night. I wish we could have captured the fruit trees before the shoot was over, but unfortunately, we ran out of sunlight.
Maritza Palacios, Development Manager, stopped by to say hello on her way to do after-school duty at the boys’ house. Boys Hope Girls Hope is the kind of community where there is truly a team mentality and a culture to help where needed. Maritza and I have collaborated on network-wide projects before, so I have experienced her bubbly and energetic personality. More recently she was a part of the local video planning team, and we appreciated her liveliness, creativity and ideas.
When we finished our tour, we got Jenny mic-ed up for her interview. What you’ll hear in Jenny’s video is how she learned about Boys Hope Girls Hope after living with a teacher for some time. Over and over, Jenny talked about her mother, who she speaks to on the phone every day, as her inspiration. She also revealed her favorite subject, which has led to her hopes for the future—to work in forensic science.
I got misty as I read her the interview questions. If it were only possible for one person to see this project when it’s done, I would choose Jenny’s mom. I hope she is so proud of her beautiful, focused daughter and the sacrifice she’s made to give Jenny the opportunity for an education, a career, and a network of people to help her through life.
Following Jenny’s interview, we took off to the boardwalk at Seal Beach 40 minutes away from the home, the location of many of the beautiful shots in the video. Gratefully, there couldn’t have been more perfect weather. Moving swiftly in the HOV lane toward our Pacific Coast Highway exit, Jenny and Patience chatted while Tim gave me directions. In no time, we arrived and found a parking spot in front of a row of quaint beachside shops. We walked across the street toward cawing seagulls and warm sand against the backdrop of approaching waves. Couples strolled down the boardwalk and families with little children built castles in the sand as Patience captured some of the shots that make this video so special.
Afterward, we headed to a tree-lined park where Jenny showed us her impressive soccer skills. She has also participated in arts performances–a young woman of many talents! From there, we drove up a steep winding road to Skyline, overlooking an expanse of the city. The sun preparing to set behind the horizon was the perfect almost-end to a memorable day. When we returned to the house, it was filled with a savory aroma. Two additional team members, Chelsea and Deisy, lovingly prepared a huge meal for the girls. Jenny spent some time chatting with her housemates before they rushed off to dance rehearsals, sports practices, and study groups. The scholars were welcoming and relaxed, making me think that Tim’s personality and management style set the tone for the astute but easy-going feeling in the house. Our last shot of the night was Jenny studying at her desk.
By the time we packed up to leave the house and walked out into the dark of the quiet neighborhood, it felt like Jenny was a new friend. I considered myself blessed to meet a few more members of the Boys Hope Girls Hope family and to have just a glimpse into the life of such a committed young woman and the people around her who are helping to leverage her strengths.
As I turned on the television that evening back in my hotel room, I watched and re-watched scenes from Kobe Bryant’s memorial service earlier that day, and got an update on the latest coronavirus news. There were many mixed emotions—the joy of remembering the day, the sadness of the loss of an American icon, the pensiveness and concern about the virus, and the hope for Jenny.
The next day, Patience and I would leave LA for our next project in San Francisco, taking all of those emotions with us, and determined to capture a glimpse into another life. Having the rare opportunity to work with just a few of our scholars to share their stories is truly a highlight of what we do, and further underscores the significance of having a career filled with purpose.
Like Jenny, many of our scholars are the quietly thoughtful and driven young people who may not have opportunity that matches their capabilities if they didn’t have a champion—the teacher, the school counselor, the single mom—who recognized their potential and didn’t give up, but partnered with Boys Hope Girls Hope.
Jenny, thank you so much for allowing us to tell your story! I pray it gives hope to another young person, another champion, you, your mom. It certainly inspired me.
If you’re interested in viewing more videos in our ongoing series. Please head over to boyshopegirlshope.org/videos!