“Poverty has a stranglehold on Newburgh, but there is hope.”

For the past five years, Newburgh’s Merakey Center for Hope has been living up to its name and making a difference in the lives of the city’s at-risk youth and their families through its education, recreation, and employment programs. Hundreds of youth between the ages of 11 and 21 pass through its doors every year to enter a safe haven that is helping them acquire the tools and opportunities that can break the cycle of poverty destroying their community.
Initiated two years ago at the Center for Hope, the Youth and Police Initiative is a national program that was established by the North American Family Institute. Every other month, for four consecutive days, groups of students and police come together to share their life stories.
The Center for Hope’s Youth and Police Initiative (YPI) is one program that is addressing the poverty and crime. It is helping to breach the divide between the community and Newburgh’s law enforcement, comprised of only 72 active police officers. Matthew, 19, and Carolina, 21, are two young people who exemplify the success that the Center for Hope is working to achieve. Both highly motivated, Carolina and Matthew graduated from the YPI program and were inspired by the experience, which they say was mutually beneficial to them and to the police in dispelling judgements and misunderstandings of each other.

Carolina - success storyCarolina, who came to the U.S. from Peru when she was seven, credits the YPI program for solidifying her desire to pursue a career in criminal justice; she is enrolled in online classes at Kaplan University. She came to the Center when she was 18, enrolling in its Supported Youth Employment Program as a way to better her career prospects. A year ago, the Center hired her as a Youth Mentor and recently she was named Work Program Coordinator. She splits her time between both jobs. “I got sidetracked a few years ago,” she says. “But I’m determined to better my life and go after my dreams. The Center has helped me put my goals into clear focus.”
Matthew - success story“You learn very quickly that they’re just people too, and that at the end of the day they have a job to do,” says Matthew, who first came to the center by court order to do community service; he stayed on to enroll in its Supported Youth Employment Program. Matthew is an entrepreneur in the making. He has a prospering landscaping business with six employees, four of whom he hired from the Center, and hopes to create more jobs for the city.

“These are two young people with tremendous drive and a great work ethic,” says Marie Gulari, County Director for Orange County, NY. “By their example, they’re inspiring other young people. There is definitely hope for Newburgh.”