A Hopeworks graduate, now its unofficial ambassador

A Hopeworks graduate, now its unofficial ambassador


Yesenia Nieves, who graduated from Hopeworks ‘N Camden, now works for the program and is studying for a master’s degree in business administration at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia. She is pictured with Christopher Alicea, a current Hopeworks student.



On Sunday, April 3, there will be a “Roll For Hope” Fundraiser at Pinsetter Bar and Bowl in Pennsauken to raise money for Hopeworks ‘N Camden, a program that aims to improve the lives of inner-city youth, largely through technology training.

One of the bowlers that afternoon will be a Hopeworks graduate, who now serves as a leader and mentor in the program.

Camden native Yesenia Nieves, 22, currently serves as a full-time presence in the C.R.I.B. (Community Responding In Belief) program, a residential community for Camden youth. She is executive assistant to Jesuit Father Jeff Puthoff, director of Hopeworks.

In 2003, when she was in high school, Nieves started coming to the program on State Street in North Camden. Nieves quickly became proficient in state-of-the-art computer applications such as web site design and geographic information systems (GIS); in the latter, she went out into Camden with a handheld computer, and collected data about Camden’s streets and buildings, which was eventually used to create a map of the city.

As well, she acted as an ambassador of sorts for Hopeworks N’ Camden, traveling with Father Puthoff to places such as California, Colorado, and Pennsylvania to promote the program, which has seen nearly 1,000 youth come through its doors in its 10-year history, and get jobs, attend college and earn GED’s.

Last year, Nieves graduated from Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J., with a degree in Environmental Studies, with a concentration in urban and justice issues.

Soon after, in November, she began working as a full-time presence at the C.R.I.B, mentoring and guiding its residents, four students who work at Hopeworks and attend classes at Camden County College, towardassociate degrees.

Hopeworks ‘N Camden and the C.R.I.B., Nieves knows from personal experience, provide vital opportunities to Camden’s youth, who live in a city where nearly 50 percent of the youth live in poverty, the high school dropout rate at the two public high schools is almost 70 percent, and 34 percent of the youth are unemployed.

“I have seen people give up, because they (feel they) don’t have resources,” she said, noting that Hopeworks can be that resource for youth looking for educational opportunities, and, ultimately, good-paying jobs.

At the C.R.I.B., Nieves and the residents share meals, go grocery shopping together and cook together. She believes these college students, and other students at Hopeworks will “become leaders in the community, become a leader to their peers. In some instances, (C.R.I.B residents) are some of the first in their entire family to go to college, and they already serve as an inspiration.”

Nieves is currently enrolled at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where she is working toward a master’s degree in business administration.

The “Roll for Hope” fundraiser to benefit Hopeworks, and sponsored by Jersey Business Leaders, will take place on Sunday, April 3, 1-4 p.m. at Pinsetter Bar and Bowl, 7111 Maple Ave. in Pennsauken. Tickets are $30 per person and include, bowling, shoes and buffet (cash bar also available). There will also be a Chinese Auction, Silent Auction, and door prizes.

For more information, or to register/donate, go to www.jerseybusinessleaders.com/hope, or call Terry Wall, President of JBL, at 856-218-7200.

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