Once a week, Jessica McKeown enjoys having dinner with several of her good friends and afterward, she helps them with homework. Soon, she will begin preparing the young man she regularly tutors for his college entrance exams.
McKeown serves on the leadership committee of Boys Hope Girls Hope’s Junior Board, a group of more than 30 young professionals who raise funds, mentor, tutor and volunteer with the nonprofit’s young scholars.
McKeown appreciates being part of the familylike environment at the BHGH homes.
“It’s small, so kids get a lot of attention,” she said.
McKeown co-chairs the board’s scholarship committee, planning social events and monthly guest speakers. Presenters have included a marine biologist, a neonatal intensive care unit nurse, a veterinarian and a video game designer who provided insight into possible careers.
The Rev. Harry Tompson, a Jesuit priest, and Judge Adrian Duplantier founded Boys Hope Girls Hope more than 30 years ago to assist children with potential for academic success whose families were unable to provide adequate support. Since 1980, when Boys Hope New Orleans opened its doors, more than 250 children have found a home, structure and guidance to attain their personal goals.
“We want it to be treated as a scholarship program,” said Kelley Allenspach, development director. “They are here because they were chosen.”
School counselors, teachers or family members often recognize children’s academic abilities and make referrals. Eight boys and eight girls live in two separate Mid City homes where they benefit from high-quality education in private high schools, close supervision and assistance by college-educated residential counselors, social interaction and various enrichment activities.
The girls’ home is a beautiful, modern house with a large kitchen, dining room, four shared bedrooms and study areas with computers. After 6 p.m. dinner, scholars promptly perform various household chores and complete homework assignments.
“I like that it has a holistic approach that supports them, academically and emotionally,” McKeown said.
Four years ago, Boys Hope Girls Hope formed the Junior Board to allow volunteers and tutors to become more involved and to gain board leadership experience, said Allenspach, who was a founding board member before joining the staff.
Nick Peddle, a marketing professional, has served two years on the Junior Board and chairs its event committee, which this year planned yard sales and a holiday party held at The Other Bar on Freret Street.
Board membership is not generally an opportunity open to young professionals, Peddle said, but membership on the Junior Board allows for interaction with the governing board. The Junior Board teamed up with board members and volunteers in May to raise $13,700 during Give NOLA Day.
The Junior Board held its Heart for Hope Spring Fling at the Ashé Cultural Arts Center, featuring Tank and the Bangas, Tonya Boyd-Cannon, Ray and Definition DJ Chris Stylez. The event was both an entertaining and a networking event. But what the members enjoy the most is getting to know and provide support for the young scholars.
“Members of the Junior Board get a lot of personal contact with our scholars who can relate to folks 20 to 35 years of age,” said board Chairman Sandy Duplantier, who has been involved with Boys Hope Girls Hope for more than 20 years.
He said the younger board members are in tune with the youth and better able to relate to the challenges they face.
“They are also prime contacts to help us in the future,” Duplantier said.
Boys Hope Girls Hope needs more tutors to assist with reading comprehension, writing and math. Anyone interested in serving on the Junior Board can contact a member at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a privately funded organization, Boys Hope Girls Hope hosts five annual fundraising events to maintain the homes and care the young scholars depend on for future success. Upcoming events include the annual Generations of Hope Fall Gala, Sept. 12 at the Pavilion of the Two Sisters; the 18th annual Michelob Ultra/Boys Hope Girls Hope Tennis Classic Oct. 9-12 at Pelican Athletic Club in Mandeville; and the Race Judicata: Run for Hope on March 7 at Audubon Park.