During the ’60s, there was great hope in the movement for equality in this country, focused on achieving civil rights, ending racially segregated school systems, and ensuring that all children beyond economic status and race had an equal start in education development. This hope was for the future and progressive changes that would positively impact the generations of children to come. The education platform was the foundation to build dreams, inspire growth, and open the doors to opportunities. When the doors opened for the Hope Center in northeast Denver in 1962, the idea of providing quality education and support wasn’t just for some but for everyone regardless of their ability. This was a time where differences weren’t widely accepted or embraced. So, the acts of discrimination weren’t just based on color but also perceived intellectual ability and capacity – those deemed less capable were often institutionalized. However, the Hope Center became a place where the unique educational needs of children are addressed, where culture is embraced and reflected, and where dreams can have an early start to becoming fulfilled. “In the early years, the staff was small but aligned to a vision to make a big impact in the lives of neighborhood children and adults right outside our doors,” explained Gerie Grimes, Hope Center president and CEO. “We believed that everyone could learn and should be afforded a quality education.” The Hope Center began serving individuals with disabilities, and in the ’80s, the program expanded to include early childhood education and extended care, along with the
Legacy of Hope: Celebrating Hope Center’s 60 Years of Impact in Community By Gerri Gomez Howard Hope Academy for gifted preschool- and kindergarten-age children. At that time, research showed that children of color were often identified on the opposite end of the special education system and not on the gifted and talented.
Today, the Hope Center is one of the oldest and largest Blackled nonprofit organizations serving and impacting children of color in Denver. Through its special needs, early childhood education and vocational programs, the Hope Center lays the
“Children of color in Denver and everywhere weren’t being recognized for their gifts but often discounted and counted out in a system meant to help them reach their full potential,” explained Grimes. “But we knew differently and were at the forefront through our advanced programs to ensure those gifts were not only recognized early on but built upon and celebrated.” The center started out with six students, and now on average serves 200 children in the early childhood program and 35 adults through the vocational program each year.
foundation and paves the way for children to grow and adults to thrive. The center serves as a long-standing education pillar in the community, and this year will celebrate 60 years. “Sixty years for any nonprofit is no easy feat to achieve, but to withstand the changing times we remained steadfast to our vision but intentional about evolving and tailoring our programs to meet the needs of the children and adults we serve and their entire families,” explained Grimes. The Hope Center has received national acclaim for its progressive curriculum and
Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – March 2022
quality learning experiences, including high ratings from the Colorado Shines Quality Rating and Improvement System. The Center is consistently recognized for its excellent teacher qualifications, family partnerships, leadership, learning environment and child health. It has become the school of choice for many, including generational families where parents or grandparents attended the school and now their children and grandchildren are students. Their initial choice to be part of the Hope Center family has turned into a tradition and legacy where generations of family and family members continue to be impacted by its programs. “When I first began to have children, there was no question where my sons would attend school because the Hope Center had established a reputation that was unmatched,” recalled LaDawn Sullivan, Director of Black Resilience in Colorado Fund. “The Hope Center was like a college campus for children where they were exposed to so many learning tools, to other children from various backgrounds and a preparatory program that created a strong educational footprint for them to continue to move forward and build upon. They gained a strong education foundation, love of learning, selfconfidence and compassion for others that remains with them today as adults.” “It’s been an honor to be a part of this organization for 40 of the 60 years and to serve generations of family members throughout the years,” said Grimes. “We look forward to continuing the legacy of hope.. Editor’s note: The community is invited to celebrate the Hope Center 60th Anniversary and help continue the legacy on Sept. 17 by attending the “History of Hope - 60 Diamond Years Gala” at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. For more information, visit www.hopecenterinc.org or call 303-388-4801.