By Kendall Fisher, executive producer at Grow Wire
We broke down this episode of the "Grow Wire Show" into a three-part series to better tell the St. HOPE story. Moving forward, we will continue creating mini-series for our "Grow Wire Show" episodes.
Thirty years ago, few people saw beyond the high poverty and high crime rates associated with the Oak Park neighborhood right outside of Sacramento, California. However, one of those few people included former NBA player Kevin Johnson.
Having grown up in Oak Park, Johnson saw something else. He saw hope.
He wanted to give kids who were just like him the opportunity they deserved to succeed beyond the challenges associated with growing up in their community. In 1989, he started an organization he called St. HOPE Academy—H.O.P.E. standing for “helping others pursue excellence.” At the time, the organization was an afterschool program for 12 African-American boys in a little portable building on the Sacramento High School campus.
From that experience, Johnson realized the schools in Oak Park were lacking some crucial elements to help students succeed, and by 2003, the academy grew into St. HOPE public schools, a charter network of an elementary school, two middle schools and Sacramento High School.
The mission behind St. HOPE charter schools was to help revitalize Oak Park through education, starting with graduation rates. Whereas Sac High once saw a dismal 39 percent graduation rate as a district school, today the school is at a 95 percent graduation rate and continues to get better.
However, as amazing as that statistic is, the leaders at St. HOPE knew there was more to be done, and the organization couldn’t rely purely on donations to continue to grow.
So how does a nonprofit organization overcome that challenge? This is where St. HOPE’s story takes a unique turn.
The organization moved forward with a solution that would not only help solve financial challenges for its schools but would also end up giving back to the Oak Park community at large. St. HOPE began investing in economic and community development, buying and restoring properties in the neighborhood to provide more jobs and opportunities for its citizens while also helping to finance its charter schools.
Current CEO Jake Mossawir is proud as he looks out on the Oak Park community today. St. HOPE has helped create 20 businesses around in the neighborhood, providing nearly 300 jobs and catalyzing more than $43 million in economic and real estate investments.
But while all of that is incredibly exciting, Mossawir is the first to admit there’s still plenty of challenges to overcome and lots of growth ahead of the organization.
Watch this three-part series to find out how St. HOPE continues to overcome obstacles in order to continue bettering the Oak Park community and even hear from one student whose future is bright thanks to her involvement with the organization.
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