Meet the staff – Fred Ross

HopeWorks is blessed with caring staff who are committed to our students and helping them succeed. One of those employees is Fred Ross, a student coordinator for Adult Basic Education at all of our corrections sites – including Shelby County Division of Corrections, Shelby County Jail, Jail East and the Day Reporting Center – and a HiSET proctor. Fred’s passion for his role and desire to help his students is amazing! Keep reading to learn more about Fred and why he loves HopeWorks.

When did you start working at HopeWorks?

I’ve worked at HopeWorks for 4 years and 7 months. Before HopeWorks, I worked as a master barber for 16 years at my own shop and served as admissions director at the Memphis Institute of Barbering for 15 years. As admissions director, I attended a lot of career fairs, which is where I became familiar with HopeWorks. A former staff member later encouraged me to apply.

In some ways, the transition to HopeWorks was easy: working with adults and guiding them along a new career path. I prayed a lot about this new role and am so glad I decided to become a part of HopeWorks’ family.

What is your favorite/the most meaningful part about working at HopeWorks?

The most meaningful part of my job is walking hand in hand with our students on their journey to receive their high school equivalency diploma and seeing them get on track toward a career path. We have the opportunity to remove barriers for our students, which also helps their families.

Can you share a story related to your job?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was doing a lot of virtual testing. One of my students was a young lady whose dad was very negative and always discouraged her from working toward her high school equivalency diploma. It was not a good situation. 

A few months later, she reached out to me and told me she passed. She said, “You believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.” Since completion, she’s gone on to nursing school. I’m so proud of her for hanging in there!

What does “hope works” mean to you?

That’s an easy one for everyone who works at HopeWorks. Mr. Wade reminds us all the time that our mission is to provide our students with hope and a job. When I think about hope, the first thing that comes to mind is Jesus.

For someone unfamiliar with HopeWorks, what’s one thing you’d like them to know?

When I started working at HopeWorks, I didn’t have a lot of background knowledge of the organization either. I had no idea HopeWorks had been serving for so long. They’ve been around for 35 years and I think that’s amazing!

Is there a fun fact about yourself you’d like to share?

For me, spending time with family, my music and grilling are really therapeutic.

My HopeWorks family knows about my love of music. I’ve been a DJ for 19 years and had a lot of opportunities to work with different artists, like touring with violinist Damien Escobar. I also do weddings and other events!

When I’m not DJing, I love to grill and consider myself a grill master. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at lamb chops, steaks and ribs, which is great because those are my favorite things to eat!