Hope Academy Youth Honored by Boys & Girls Club of America

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Julio Santana, a participant at The Children's Aid Society Hope Leadership Academy, was recently honored as one of the Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA) “Faces of the Future.” His interest in computers and dedication to our technology program have earned him one of the few spots in this national campaign which highlights the great work being done at our community centers.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Julio is a young man who has been chasing a dream of a better future for his entire life. He spent most of his childhood in Santo Domingo with his mother after his father legally immigrated to New York almost thirty years ago. “It was lonely,” Julio said, but my father “always took care of us, he called, sent us money -- so I could study.” While in Dominican Republic, Julio attended a technical high school and studied computer programming, networking and learned to build databases using Microsoft Access.

In 2009, after enduring the loss of his older brother in an accident and watching his mother battle cancer, Julio and his mother were finally able to join the rest of their family in East Harlem. Eventually Julio began attending Hope Leadership Academy on Madison Avenue at 115th St.

When Julio first joined Hope, he barely spoke English, but his warm personality drew the other teens to him. Despite the language barrier, he became a leader in the technology program. Julio has been involved with computers ever since he “has memory,” he says. But thanks to the technology program he is gaining new skills, perfecting his English and having the opportunity to share his knowledge with other teens. Hope Leadership Academy has also introduced Julio to a welcoming community where he is able to meet and develop relationships with a diverse group of kids his age, as well as learn new tech skills and have access to a computer lab.

Julio is currently finishing an ESL prep course at Bronx Community College before he begins his degree in Computer Science. He wants to become a software engineer and earn his masters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) because “It’s one of the 10 best schools in the world for technology. I did the research.” Julio’s drive and dedication is obvious to everyone who meets him and he is a role model for his peers at Hope.

-Joanna Grosberg