Five Pivotal Moments in the History of HopeWorks

HopeWorks has come a long way since its founding in 1988. This growth has allowed us to reach more people, provide more opportunities and spread the Gospel throughout Memphis. As we look back, here are five moments in our history that have defined HopeWorks’ past and, in turn, our future.

1. The founding of HopeWorks

In 1988, several area Churches of Christ had a vision – to aid the poor and homeless population in Shelby Country by providing temporary housing. This original idea developed into a program that would help people find independence and purpose. Wayne Reed, then director of Memphis Area Cooperative Services,
transformed the program and created the Life Skills Lab. In 1990, the Life Skills Lab had its first class of students. Then, in 1998, the Life Skills Lab was renamed to HopeWorks, Inc. and received its 501(c)(3) status.

2. First PCD class

Even though the first Personal and Career Development class was held in 1990, it continues to be HopeWorks’ signature program as it works to remove barriers that hinder people from obtaining and maintaining meaningful employment. In its early stages, PCD was geared toward students breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Instructors would teach soft skills like how to dress for an interview or how to research who’s hiring. It also provided counseling services, internship opportunities and mentorship from a HopeWorks Faith Encourager with the goal of creating meaningful relationships between working professionals and students with a desire to start their career. Building a foundation of trust was important to HopeWorks staff. Instructors also taught Holistic Hardware in which characters of the Bible are used to demonstrate traits such as honesty, reliability and integrity – all important qualities to have in the workforce.

Today, HopeWorks’ PCD classes are a 13-week, tuition-free program that provides students with more than 300 hours of instruction and counseling to help them obtain and keep careers. For more information about HopeWorks PCD classes, click here.

3. Adult Education is added

Students enrolled in PCD classes were given the opportunity to receive their GED if they didn’t have a high school diploma. Time outside of the PCD classroom was spent studying with volunteer teachers to obtain their degree. However, the majority of HopeWorks’ PCD students decided not to complete the program. That
changed when, in 2013, the State of Tennessee approached HopeWorks to participate in a pilot program to supplement Memphis City Schools’ (now Shelby County Schools) GED courses. When the State released a bid to teach Adult Education courses throughout the Greater Memphis Area in 2016, HopeWorks applied and received the grant. This exposed HopeWorks to a larger population of potential students.

Today, HopeWorks provides Adult Education courses for students looking to obtain a high school equivalency diploma. HiSET classes are offered in multiple locations around the city of Memphis, including Whitehaven, Orange Mound, Midtown, South Memphis, Bartlett and Frayser. Click here to learn more about HopeWorks’ Adult Education classes.

4. Expanding to SCDC

Around the same time that Adult Education courses were added, word was spreading about what HopeWorks was doing around Memphis. Eventually, the director of the Shelby County Division of Corrections and the Shelby County mayor inquired about bringing both Adult Education and PCD courses to incarcerated individuals. This allowed HopeWorks to expand and led to the creation of Hope 2 Hire, a program that provides work readiness and life skills training to incarcerated individuals in hopes of giving them a second chance while
boosting the economy and lowering recidivism rates.

5. Adding IELCE

In Feb. 2018, HopeWorks relocated to a new facility in the Binghampton neighborhood of Memphis, an area saturated with international cultures and people. Because of this and a requirement when receiving the Adult Education grant, HopeWorks began teaching Integrated English Language and Cultural Education courses or IELCE, which is often colloquially called English as a Second Language. These courses teach English to students of all nationalities and levels of literacy. In fact, HopeWorks has more than 200 students from 40 different countries enrolled in the program. HopeWorks combines faith into this program by sharing hospitality when offering meals after classes and treating people with kindness. To learn more about IELCE courses, click here.