$1.5M job readiness grant will help Brooklyn nonprofit continue to train at-risk youth for jobs

July 6, 2021 Editorial Staff
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The HOPE Program, a social service nonprofit with a long history in Downtown Brooklyn, has received almost $1.5 million from U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to help it continue its YouthBuild program — part of a nationwide initiative to prepare at-risk youth for jobs in construction and related industries.

The HOPE Program is one of only four nonprofits in the state to receive the federal funding, the other three being in Kingston, Schenectady and Staten Island. The actual amount headed to HOPE is $1,499,999.

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“It’s for our YouthBuild programming, which provides high school equivalency, leadership opportunities, general career readiness, and hard skills training in horticulture and construction,” Irene Branche, HOPE’s chief development and evaluation officer, said in an email. “It’s very exciting!”

The program was founded in 1984 by Deborah MacFarlane-Antoine, a PhD student at Columbia who sought ways to help people break out of the cycle of poverty. In 1988, it moved from Manhattan to St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights. It moved to its current location on Smith Street in Downtown Brooklyn in 2002.

According to a statement by Sens. Gillibrand and Schumer, “The YouthBuild evidence-based model helps participants earn their high school diploma or equivalent and teaches job skills through community service, including building affordable housing for homeless and low-income people in their communities. Immediately following the program, 50 percent of all enrollees successfully placed in either employment or postsecondary education.”

An announcement by the HOPE Program that it was seeking a project director for its YouthBuild program, which was posted on its website in the fall of 2020, showed that HOPE’s YouthBuild would be located on Garrison Avenue in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx.

The program director, according to this announcement, would “build and implement a program schedule that ensures all students gain the necessary education, work readiness, digital skills, financial literacy, work wellness, environmental literacy, hard skill training, industry certifications, field and leadership experience to meet national YouthBuild program standards.”

Speaking about the HOPE Program in general, the same announcement said that “our student-centered approach, employer-driven training, wide
range of support services, and commitment to ongoing engagement yields strong results, notably a job placement rate of 75 percent and retention rates of 92 percent at 90 days and 81 percent at one-year.”–>

In general, according to HOPE’s website, its programs include “soft skills and readiness work preparation,” digital literacy training, financial literacy training, “wellness and mindfulness training,” math and skills-building. The ultimate goal is, of course, jobs.

HOPE’s clients, according to its website, often have a history of substance abuse, homelessness, court involvement and/or have been unemployed on a long-term basis.

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