Check out a photo of the new 6,000-square-foot hub that houses Hopeworks Camden and you’ll immediately think it’s a coworking space or a tech office.
Dan Rhoton, executive director at the youth development nonprofit, said the open floor plan, standing-desk areas and breakaway spaces are there to serve a purpose.
“When we designed the space, we asked all the tech companies that employ our youth to send us photos of their offices,” Rhoton said. Looking at office pics of companies like Arcweb Technologies, Subaru’s Camden headquarters or Philly-area WeWork spots, the company crafted a space that would feel similar to where young people would later be employed at as web developers or Salesforce admins.
“If they’re the first person of color in those spaces, they’re going to feel crazy impostor system,” Rhoton said. “Our old location was warm and homey, but they might feel like it wasn’t the right fit once they got to other companies’ offices. If we did our job well, they’ll say ‘Hey, this looks just like Hopeworks!'”
(The organization is undergoing a rebrand: it removed the N from its former name: Hopeworks ‘N Camden. “It’s just an update to the language,” Rhoton said. “No one really understood where it came from.”)
The new hub at 808 Market St. in Camden, made possible by a $420,000 “landmark donation”from the Townsend Foundation and other donations, will let the organization double the number of youth it serves. It projects having reached some 500 youngsters by the end of the year.
Hopeworks will host a ceremonial “powering on” of the tech equipment at the location Sept. 12, marking the space’s official public unveiling.
Since its founding in 2000, some 3,000 young people have received training through the Hopeworks program. Though Rhoton initially feared the first month or two at the new space might feel empty as it grew in capacity, the case has been the opposite.
“We’re at capacity already and it feels great,” Rhoton said. “Turns out young kids in Camden were just waiting for more seats.”
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