Our firm is a proud sponsor of The HOPE Program, a non-profit that helps at-risk New Yorkers transcend poverty and prepare to find and retain employment. Last week, I had the pleasure of attending HOPE’s second annual “A Taste of Hope” event for what turned out to be an unforgettable evening.
The event celebrated the transformations and achievements of HOPE students. As one of HOPE’s signature workforce programs prepares men and women for careers in New York City's food industry, they also honored their partners by offering guests food and drink tastings from highly renowned local culinary leaders. Guests enjoyed a wide range of delicious treats (including sushi, cheese, cupcakes and cocktails) while experiencing the stunning views on the venue’s terrace overlooking Central Park.
However, the most memorable part of the event was not the food, the views or the auction – but the unbelievable success stories HOPE students shared. In particular, the story of one of the graduates really struck a chord with me and brought many others in the audience to tears:
One of the graduates of the program bravely stood up in front of all the guests and openly discussed how he grew up without a father and was left with the responsibility of taking care of his siblings while his mother frequented parties. In search for some sort of family, he got involved with a gang at a young age and began abusing substances. He was first arrested at the age of 15 and after that, his life became a revolving door of incarceration and he never spent more than a year outside of prison. In his last charge, he was facing 25 years to life in prison. Luckily, he only ended up having to serve five years, but the thought of growing old behind bars terrified him. He decided to make a change and went almost directly into a substance abuse treatment facility after serving his sentence. Once he finished the program, the facility sent him to HOPE.
At HOPE, this graduate turned on a computer for the first time, wrote his first resume and participated in his first interview. He completed an internship and for the first time in his life, someone looked at his resume and offered him a chance at honest work – and it paid off! At the end of his speech, he rang a bell – HOPE’s way of signifying that he now has a job. Throughout his journey, he said his inspiration was his children, who are now adults. Regrettably, he was unable to be a role model to them for many years, but now that he has a job, his goal is to continue to rebuild his life so that someday soon they will accept him and he can be part of their lives.
Sadly, the challenges this man faced are not uncommon and the unemployment statistics in NYC are disturbing:
- New York City's unemployment rate remains at approximately 10%
- Men and women with histories of incarceration face unemployment up to 40%
- Those without a diploma or GED face unemployment of 13%
- Only 1 in 10 long-term unemployed successfully secure employment
HOPE is looking to change these numbers by putting unemployed, disadvantaged New Yorkers on a path to success through work readiness training, internships, job placement support, coaching and mentoring, and advancement training. Over 70% of HOPE graduates secure employment. For many of these graduates, landing a job is a chance to make a positive change to break unhealthy patterns and start a new life.
The event left me feeling inspired by the stories of HOPE students and proud to work at firm that supports HOPE’s belief that if given the opportunity, anyone can achieve great success through hard work and encouragement.
To learn more about The HOPE Program and how you can help, visit: http://www.thehopeprogram.org/