For over 30 years, Boys Hope Girls Hope of Detroit has been providing access and opportunity to underserved youth to help them reach their goals. BHGH of Detroit supports young people who are college-bound and provides holistic support services that respond to their overall needs at various points in their journey. Scholars receive academic resources, extracurricular opportunities and permanent social connections.
Rolling out had the opportunity to talk with Patrice Johnson, executive director of Boys Hope Girls Hope of Detroit, to learn more about their mission and movement.
How would you describe the work of Boys Hope Girls Hope of Detroit in one word?
The keyword is “nurture.” We are literally nurturing young people so they can reach their full potential. Our job is to make sure they are able to persevere and not [cower] when life gets tough.
BHGH has had a footprint in Detroit for over 30 years. How has the organization evolved with the landscape changing?
BHGH mirrors the city we serve. In other words, as Detroit has re-envisioned itself after the bankruptcy, BHGH has also transformed its residential programmatic model. Establishing a 21st Century Urban Boarding program for girls of color will completely shift the way residential care occurs around our country.
Can you describe the process of establishing the 21st Century Urban Boarding program?
The Hope House has over 3,000 square feet. What we’ve done is transformed all of that space into programmatic areas. Our kitchen is now a culinary arts lab. There’s a reflection room for spirituality and mindfulness, art therapy lab, dance studio, therapy nook, and a media center. Our girls will have a nurturing yet comprehensive setting that builds their leadership skills and self-worth.
Why does BHGH continue to support students even when they matriculate into college?
Based on Michigan school data, we know that only 5 percent of students who graduated from Wayne county, specifically, Detroit schools, matriculated through college 4-5 years after they graduated from high school. This doesn’t mean that our kids aren’t college material or that they don’t have the aspirations of being a college graduate. Instead, it’s an alarming reality that says support systems within the city alongside post-secondary opportunities have to provide whole child services that cater to both a student’s emotional well-being and their intellectual growth.
We have to ensure that our kids get to and through college. For BHGH, that means that we have a unique program that tracks our students and continues to offer them support up until they graduate from college.
What are some leadership lessons that you would like to share with our readers?
Be relentless with your vision. Do not back down on what you see. Go after it. Be resilient, until that thing is a reality. Also, the most recent lesson that I’ve learned is to own your brilliance. You are 100 percent that boss, no need to play small.