In 1977, Father Paul Sheridan, a Jesuit educator living and working in St. Louis, decided that he'd seen the promise of too many young lives extinguished by negative factors, such as:
• overcrowded and underfunded schools;
• families distressed by poverty, illness, divorce, death, and;
• neighborhoods shattered by drugs and violence.
Since full potential can only be realized through education, Fr. Sheridan placed children in top-rated schools best suited to their needs. He set high expectations—and gave his scholars everything they needed to meet them.
Because children need a stable home and family, he created family-style, non-institutional homes that recreated the family dynamic. In Boys Hope Girls Hope homes, committed houseparents provide crucial parenting; older scholars became siblings and role models to younger ones; and all performed household chores together, cementing the family bonds.
To instill in his scholars the universal moral value of altruism, all scholars attended weekly services consistent with their religious backgrounds and participated in community service projects.
And he provided academic, financial, and spiritual support through college.
The program’s success led to its rapid replication across the country. In 1981, Boys Hope of Illinois opened in Chicago. In 1983, Boys Hope became Boys Hope Girls Hope when our first home for girls opened in New Orleans. By 1999, Boys Hope Girls Hope had affiliates in 15 major American metropolitan areas, operating 31 homes in the continental U.S.
In 1987, Boys Hope Girls Hope opened its first Latin American Affiliate—Vida Jovem—in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 1991, Esperanza Juvenil opened in Guatemala City, Guatemala. In 2008, Boys Hope Girls Hope added affiliates in Lima, Peru, and Monterrey, Mexico.
In 2004, in response to ever-growing numbers of children-in-need, Boys Hope Girls Hope piloted a community-based outreach program in its Phoenix, AZ affiliate for children whose home situation did not require out-of-home placement. Other affiliates quickly began community-based programs, nearly doubling the amount of children-in-need we are able to serve.
Today, Boys Hope Girls Hope alumni are attorneys, healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, research scientists, educators, military and police officers, firefighters, and clergy. They are serving their communities and giving hope to countless others.