You may have seen the news this week of three teenagers arrested for selling water along the National Mall in Washington, DC. It shocked locals who had noted that the entrepreneurial approach of the teens should be encouraged, not punished. It also motivated one man to do something about it. Within an hour of the news of the arrest, Ray Bell, founder of the HOPE Project was on social media searching for the three. Within the week, Bell had recruited them into a program to train young people from disadvantaged communities in the skills needed to land well-paying IT jobs.
Thanks to Accenture, members of our Autism Advantage staff spent last Monday with Bell in the Anacostia neighborhood of DC studying the best practices of the HOPE Project. There were many things we were impressed with. The one thing that stuck with us the most is how Bell has built a sense of community around the program rather than simply an in-and-out training model. The excellence of the program has swarmed what Bell calls “the Harvard of the Hood” with support from the local community. Alumni actively engage new students long after their own graduation (“Students may graduate, but they never finish,” Bell told our team). The HOPE Project is one of the many successful programs we are adopting best practices from as we scale Autism Advantage. Young people in Washington are fortunate to work with a visionary like Ray Bell. So are we.
Hey! Our friend Kenneth is riding his bike this July for 100 miles from Washington, DC to the Atlantic Ocean. He decided to do this on his own to raise awareness and funds to train autistic adults through Autism Advantage. We think that’s awesome and hope you do to. You can support his effort by clicking here. Check it out!