Houses of Hope
Boys Hope Girls Hope New Orleans is ending the cycle of poverty in the city one scholar at a time.
Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans has helped more than 250 academically minded youth rise above the challenges of poverty to find success.
There’s a house in Mid-City that’s unlike any other.
It’s a big home — 7,000 square feet, with nine bedrooms, nine bathrooms — that features an oversized dining room table for family-style dinners, a wide variety of family photographs on the walls, and a large kitchen island where one of the house’s residents, an 11-year-old girl named Mariam, is excitedly burbling about her day at Country Day Creative Arts camp.
“It’s so much fun,” she says. “I can’t decide if I’ll audition for Tina Turner or Britney Spears, or maybe Michael Jackson in the play. I love that I get to go there.”
Miriam is one of eight girls and four adults who live at this home — one of two residential facilities operated by Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans (the other home caters to boys). One of 18 affiliates across the United States and Latin America, the New Orleans organization was founded in 1980 with the mission of helping academically minded youth rise above the challenges of poverty to find success.
Since its founding, BHGH New Orleans has helped over 250 scholars move from disadvantaged backgrounds into successful careers.
House Parent Lerrin Trufant (left) helps scholars Mariam and Raydonce with meal time, along with Executive Director Chuck Roth.
Scholars enter the program as early as 8 years old and live full-time, year-round through high school graduation and college matriculation. The children are cared for by four live-in staff live in each home — three residential counselors, who fulfill the role of parents, and one AmeriCorps academic success coordinator, who focuses on scholar academics.
While living in the home, the children attend college preparatory schools, participate in extracurricular activities and engage in volunteer work in their communities.
“For BHGH residential and non-residential scholars, a college education is not a dream, it is an expectation,” says Chuck Roth, BHGH New Orleans executive director.
Founded in 1977 in St. Louis, Missouri, by Jesuit priest Rev. Paul Sheridan, BHGH International began with one goal: to help children break the cycle of poverty by offering them a stable and loving home, guidance and access to quality education.
“Our residential program functions as a loving and nurturing family atmosphere,” explains Development Director Cydne Romine. “It’s a lively environment that also gives the children a sense of belonging, which is central to healthy adolescent development.”
Teachers, community leaders, church members and even parents can refer young people to BHGH’s application process. Scholars are then selected according to their desire to participate and their capacity to respond to academically rigorous and character-defining programs. Those who qualify then interview before receiving a final admissions decision.
“Many factors determine a good fit,” says Roth. “The child must meet a threshold of need, demonstrate academic ability, and display the emotional and behavioral ability to respond to our program.”
Support for scholars does not end when they get to college. BHGH collegians continue to receive financial and emotional support through college, including scholarships, a home to stay in over school breaks, assistance with transportation to and from college, and quarterly grade check-ins.
The program also addresses aspects of college life that are unfamiliar to many first-generation college applicants —things like navigating dorm life, handling the stress of being away from home, applying for and managing financial aid and loans,and managing time.
Choosing to take advantage of the assistance provided by BHGH is a big step for children, and it’s an even bigger step for the parents and guardians who must decide to allow their child to take advantage of this opportunity.
“It was the first time she was ever away from me, “ says Daphne de Leon, speaking about her daughter, Daniella. “I cried every single night and even told my friends how much I regretted letting her go. But now I look back and think, ‘What a foolish thing to say.’”
De Leon says she visited the house regularly and always had a sense of security about how her daughter was doing.
“My daughter graduated from LA Tech in 2017 and is now a residential counselor at a Boys Hope Girls Hope house in Brooklyn,” she adds. “She loves what she does and is so grateful for the opportunity to give back.”
Roth says that a successful partnership between the program, parents or guardians, and program mentors is essential to the BHGH program.
“I’ve been mentoring the young men and women at Boys Hope Girls Hope for the past three years and have gotten to experience how great they truly are,” says Franciscoadan Orellana, a member of the Kiwanis Club.
In addition to community volunteers, BHGH also gets help from businesses, organizations, churches and individuals who bring groceries, help cook meals, clean the house and mow the lawn.
“Raising funds never ends, and as we don’t take any state or federal funds, every single effort helps,” says Roth. “We are looking for people who can help us with so many things. The maintenance on our homes is constant and extensive, so anyone who can help with things like electrical problems, plumbing or landscaping is always appreciated. The number of people who helps us is so impressive. People who work and give so generously really do contribute to making our kids lives better.”
“When I started as a mentor, I never would have imagined they would play such a big role in my life,” says Orellana. “Having numerous conversations with them has allowed me to understand how complex their view of life truly is, yet they’re still so innocent.”
A New Orleans native who is quick to profess his love for the city, Orellana believes mentoring BHGH’s young men and women gives him the opportunity to invest in the city’s future.
“In my opinion,” he says, “the young men and women who participate in programs like Boys Hope Girls Hope will one day be leading our society.”
House parent Lerrin Trufant and Mariam
Navarro has been in the program for almost four years as a scholar and has been a staff member at BHGH New Orleans for the past year. She recently graduated from the University of North Texas. Her goals include starting her own business, mentoring, getting her master’s degree in higher education, and helping friends and family.
“I love this program and all that it stands for,” she says. “While I did not appreciate it as much when I was a scholar, being a staff member has helped me realize that I have a lot to be thankful for. The program means a lot to me.”
“Before I was in Boys Hope Girls Hope I did not know what college was,” says Demi Varuso. “I did not have the academic support I needed and so I do not think I would have made it to college. I would not have had the help that was given during the application process as well.”
Varuso has been involved in the program for 14 years — seven years as a scholar, five as a college student, and two as a member of the BHGH New Orleans staff. She graduated from University of Louisiana—Lafayette in May 2016 and is planning on getting a masters degree and then a job she enjoys.
“The program has offered me a lot of opportunities, such as academic support, and helped me develop into a well-rounded young woman,” she said. “It helped me know how to set goals and advocate for myself. I was able to get to college and graduate because of the support of the program.”
Success of Services
Boys Hope Girls Hope New Orleans has served over 250 children since 1980
99% of BHGH New Orleans scholars are from low-income families
100% of BHGH New Orleans scholars attend local, college-preparatory schools that partner with the program to provide the widest net of resources possible for each child
100% of scholars since 1980 have graduated high school and have enrolled in postsecondary education.
94% of BHGH New Orleans graduates return for their second year of postsecondary education – 30% higher than the national average.
100% of scholars perform community service projects throughout the year. Middle school students complete 50 hours while high school students complete 100 hours of service per year.
100% of scholars participate in at least two extracurricular activities each year.
Scholars attend college preparatory schools, participate in extracurricular activities and engage in volunteer work with one goal in mind: college acceptance.
A Good Match
For companies that have experience in residential construction fields, have an interest in mentoring youth, or can sponsor events that support the efforts of Boys Hope Girls Hope throughout the year. Contact Cydne Romine at email@example.com or (504) 484-7744
Mission: Boys Hope Girls Hope helps academically capable and motivated children-in need meet their full potential and grow into men and women by providing values-centered homes with a familial atmosphere, opportunities and education through college.
Location: The physical addresses of the BHGH New Orleans’ two homes are private, but the organization can be reached via mail at: PO Box 19307, New Orleans, LA 70179