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NBA Foundation grantee spotlight: Hopeworks

In the third of four spotlight series, learn more about the Hopeworks mission from Executive Director Dan Rhoton.

From NBA.com Staff

The NBA Foundation recently celebrated its first anniversary, announcing 22 new grants totaling $6M. In the third of a series of four spotlights on grant recipients, learn more about the Hopeworks mission from Executive Director Dan Rhoton.


What are your organization’s mission and goals?

Dan Rhoton: Fundamentally what we do – young black and brown people walk in the front door when they’re ready to make a change. Ninety-nine percent of those visitors are unemployed at the time, with an average annual income per year of $400. When they walk out the door 9-12 months later, on average they’re making over $41,000/year and 89% of them are still working at that job 12 months later. We’re taking young people that want to change their life but for all sorts of reasons that are not their fault, they’re stuck. We’re able to put them in a place where they’re able to take care of themselves, take care of their families, build wealth and build a career.

What are some key programs and initiatives your organization is most excited about this year?

Last year we placed about 100 people in permanent living wage jobs. The pandemic hit our community much harder than others and folks were waking up to the fact that they made commitments to hire different people so we’re pushing. This year we’re going for 140 permanent living wage jobs. By 2025, we want to be placing 500 people in living wage jobs every year. If we hit that, we could move the needle.

What have been some highlights in working with the NBA Foundation thus far?

The first thing is, the NBA Foundation fundamentally gets it. When you’re talking about your mission being training folks in tech but the reason is to train them in tech is to build wealth in communities that have been forgotten or neglected or left out of prosperity. A lot of times that is a long conversation. With the NBA Foundation, they get it. They understand it’s not just a tech job, it’s about building wealth and inter-generational wealth to change the trajectory of families. They get it, they understand it, they understand that black and brown people do not have it easy. They can’t just get that tech job, there’s more you got to do and they’re willing to work with us and they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is in additional support. That is so rare.

How would expanding economic opportunity for Black youth affect your community and the nation more broadly?

If you want to really change the dynamics of race in this country, if you want to really change the trajectory, it turns out the solution to poverty is money. All too often what we do is we have these pronouncements and we have these goals and these declarations – what if we just took the highest wage, fastest-growing sector of the economy and build it up with black and brown young people. What we learned about the pandemic is you can generate wealth from anywhere. I could be in downtown Camden, surrounded by black and brown young people, generating crazy wealth. I don’t need to be in the suburbs, I don’t need to be in some suburb office park.

Could you share one of the moments in your work in which you felt most connected to your community?

We had a young man by the name of Chris. When he walked through the doors at Hopeworks he was unemployed like everybody else. Black young man who didn’t know what he could do – super smart, capable but was just stuck. He went through the training, he did an internship with us. In one of our huddles recently two things happened. First, James – a Hopeworks alumni – who right now has a great job working at an engineering firm – stopped by the huddle because he was doing an info session since his company wants to hire more and they sent James to do the info session. James’ company wants to hire more folks from Hopeworks and sent him to do recruiting. Then Chris announces that he’s starting a job at Slalom – a Fortune 100 tech company – everybody cheers. The part that I knew that most folks didn’t – he’s making $75,000.

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