Hope Farm’s Como campus is ready to ramp up enrollment.
Since mid-April seven Como-area boys have been learning the ins and outs of becoming successful young men in the nonprofit’s recently built center at Shiloh Drive and Faron Street, a few blocks from the Como Community Center.
Hope Farm has “taken it kind of slow” in Como, executive director Sacher Dawson said, but now the nonprofit is settled into a new 7,200 square-foot school, and the organization is ready to increase enrollment. The after-school program in Como wants as many as 70 young boys, Dawson said. Hope Farm is dedicated to breaking cycles of poverty and crime by building the academic, social and spiritual character of young men
The only requirement for young men in Hope Farm is that they not have a father in the home. That’s likely the case for many boys in the Como area, Dawson said.
“We know there has been a need over here,” he said Wednesday after a tour of the Como center with a group of volunteers. “I’ve been more worried about finding teachers than finding boys, honestly.”
Since the 1990s Hope Farm has focused on boys living in neighborhoods south of downtown and east of Interstate 35W. The primary campus has been tucked in the 76104 ZIP code, which made headlines earlier this year when a UT Southwestern study listed the area as having the shortest life expectancy in Texas at 66.7 years. That age is far lower than the state’s 78.5 year average, according to the study.
Hope Farm was founded by Gary Randle and Noble Crawford, retired law enforcement officers who followed a calling in 1990 to help minority children who were being incarcerated and were victims of crime.
A few years ago the organization opened a Como center in small house off Horne Street, but Dawson said they quickly out grew the space.
The Como center is not nearly as large as the Morningside campus, which is spread across a few blocks with a garden and large gym. But that campus is limited to 45 to 60 boys. The Como school can handle as many as 80, though Dawson said the number should stay closer to 70.
There’s plenty of space in the building. Four classrooms provide space for after school tutoring and mentoring to kindergarten through high school boys. They learn public speaking and critical thinking skills along with reading comprehension and financial literacy. Around eighth grade the boys receive a career aptitude test that allows Hope Farm teachers to connect them with possible career mentoring.
Early in the day, Christian school Rivertree Academy uses some of the classrooms. The building also has a large banquet hall and kitchen so the boys get a hot meal before going home in the evening. Dawson said Hope Farm would like to purchase some adjacent land to build a “beautiful playground the boys in Morningside can be envious of.”
But it’s not just about boys and Hope Farm. Mothers and other guardians can take computer classes, learn how to put a résumé together and do mock interviews in the Mother’s Resource Center.
“We realized some years ago that if you just continue to pour into the boys and pour to the boys, and not the mom, then you run the risk of the message getting lost when it gets home,” Dawson said.