The Founders David Araya (left) and Angela Hurtado (right) taking a "selfie" with other members of HoPe. Lawrenceville, GA, 22 September 2016 | 11:02 PM America/Chicago Latino Students Thrive on HoPe In 2009, recent college graduates Angela Hurtado and David Araya were discussing their futures. They wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people like themselves. They scribbled their ideas down on a yellow napkin. They wanted to help their peers graduate high school and attend college. They knew, from experience, the stereotypes and difficulties Hispanic high school students face and how to overcome them. They also knew of the resources needed to make a positive impact in their communities. H.o.P.e., a local non-profit, sprang from the ideas on that yellow napkin. Hispanic Organization Promoting Education, H.o.P.e., is now making a difference for Hispanic Students in Georgia. In seven years it’s grown to more than 2,500 members at 33 high schools around Atlanta. H.o.P.e. members’ graduation rate is 100%. “Our mission is to increase the graduation rate among Hispanic high school students. We do that through leadership, education, and community service,” David explains. “H.o.P.e. is transforming communities - one school, one family, and one student at a time. We are demonstrating the true potential of Hispanic youth in America.” The H.o.P.e. Leadership Chapters have revolutionized extra-curricular activities. Through community service projects, participants develop leadership skills. The program also provides resources and opportunities to help with college applications and scholarships. The H.o.P.e. culture has transformed what it means to be a Hispanic student in Georgia. It has become an integral element of a student's high school career. David and Angela remain the driving force behind H.o.P.e.. They empower the next generation of passionate and dedicated student leaders. These officers lead, motivate and inspire their peers. Paul and Valeria are just two examples of H.o.P.e.’s impact. Here are their stories. Paul Serrato is currently a sophomore at Stanford University. Listen to the Apalachee High School Valedictorian and H.o.P.e. alumnus deliver his powerful valedictory address. Valeria Rincon served as a H.o.P.e. officer at Peachtree Ridge High School. She recently graduated top of her class and is now a freshman at Stanford University. She saw the evolution of H.o.P.e. and its amazing programs and events over the course of her high school career.Valeria now serves as a H.o.P.e. Graduation Coach. As a mentor, she guides student officers through their own unique H.o.P.e. experience. Here’s her first-person account of one such experience…"Bag in hand, shades on head, and heart in throat I stared in disbelief at the decaying structure before me. “This could not be it,” I thought to myself. But sure enough, it was. The bright yellow banner tacked to the side of the porch spelled out in big, black, bold letters “HYLS.” This was the retreat center for the 2014 H.o.P.e. Officer State Summit. For the next three days, I would board with sixty-eight other high school students in an outdated, unventilated, and heavily-congested venue. I was sure this was going to be like every other summit I had attended: long, exhausting, and ultimately pointless. But I knew somehow, I would survive. I always did. In these situations, humans always resort to survival mode. They cluster in packs and avoid coming into contact with anything foreign. Thus, breakfast on the first day went as expected. Cliques arose based on schools, and friendly chit-chat was exchanged ever so often. We all felt awkward, uncomfortable, and exposed. Thus, we kept quiet and kept to ourselves. Then it began. Salsa music flowed from all four corners of the room, beach balls rained from the ceiling, and neon lights bathed us in a rainbow of colors as David and Angela boomed into their microphones “HELLO H.o.P.e. FAMILY!” The sea of officers thundered in applause and cheers. Finally, when the air was cleared and the calm was restored, a new beginning dawned on the participants of the HYLS. A new era of H.o.P.e. had commenced. The purpose of the HYLS was to teach us, the officers, to “live, breathe, and love” H.o.P.e.. We embraced the credo of HoPe: to raise the graduation rate among Hispanic high school students through leadership, education, and community service. Simple enough, right? Unfortunately, I had misunderstood. It was not that simple. To unleash the power of HoPe you had to understand its purpose, not interpret its tenants. And its purpose is quite significant. It is to change lives.But how do you change lives? How do you convince someone to believe in H.o.P.e.? Simple. You break down barriers. At the HYLS we were taught to get rid of preconceived notions, and create a trusting and accepting environment. As insecurities, strengths, and aspirations were revealed, strangers blossomed into friends. We were brought together by the current of our common culture, the current of our common hardships, and the current of our common goal. Thus, together we learned to thrive. And together we learned to HoPe.Bag in hand, shades on head, and heart in throat I stared in disbelief at the H.o.P.e. family before me. “This could not be it,” I thought. But sure enough, it was. The HYLS was coming to a close. The message was now mine to spread: “H.o.P.e.. Breathe it. Live it. Love it.” H.o.P.e. demonstrates the true potential of Hispanic youth in America. Support from individuals and organizations, like State Farm, enables them to continue to grow and expand. The H.o.P.e. movement is alive and booming. They invite you to join them.