Editor’s Note: Lexie is a proud AmeriCorps VISTA alum with a master’s degree in Communications & New Media Marketing from Southern New Hampshire University. She currently works as the Volunteer & Community Engagement Coordinator for the Syracuse Northeast Community Center and NEHDA. We’ve asked her to write guest posts for us, taking a deeper look into the Northside, its businesses, organizations, and residents. Her posts can be found under the “Syracuse Northeast Community Center” and the “NEHDA” categories.
I wasn’t sure if I was approaching the right building as I went up the steps to the house on Lilac Street. No sign, no parking lot—could this be the organization that I had heard so much about?
I rang the doorbell ready to apologize and ask for directions, but instead I was greeted by Nicole Watts, founder and Executive Director of Hopeprint. One step into the warm living room and I knew I was in the right place.
As we were talking, Nicole shared the reason for not having a sign: Hopeprint is a home. It is a place where people live, where families eat dinner, and where all neighbors are welcome. This is not a Community Center; “We are brokers of resources, not providers,” she explained. Hopeprint is a home where people are empowered to move from surviving to thriving.
The concept behind Hopeprint began as Nicole tried to find her way to a city bigger than Syracuse. Always having felt a passion for Urban America, she pictured herself in a place like Chicago or NYC, but all paths to larger cities seemed to be continuously blocked.
Trying to find answers, Nicole turned to prayer and she received two distinct images: one where she was on a street surrounded by people of all different cultures in what seemed to be a parade, and another where she was surrounded by children of every nationality. The one thing that remained exactly the same in both images was Nicole’s face: she was beaming in both visions. “It looked like I had found exactly where I wanted to be,” she said.
After recognizing that she would find happiness through working with New Americans, Nicole had to ask herself, “Where are those people?” If there were refugee populations in cities like Chicago and NYC, there must be refugees in Syracuse. Without much formal research available, Nicole began meeting with families and finding her own answers.
From there, Hopeprint came together organically. It started with another person wanting to move into the city of Syracuse, and grew as the perfect house came on the market and generous donors sponsored its purchase. Three months after moving to the city, Nicole knew her mission was working.
“We just started inviting people in,” she said. Today Hopeprint sees an average of 150 refugees every week. All programming is focused on bringing people together and empowering them through hospitality. “Her Village” is one example of how Hopeprint’s curriculum fosters relationships. Every week, women from all cultures come together to grow in friendship and community by sharing conversations. For example, one night the topic of discussion was tea—what kind of tea does everyone drink, how do they brew it, how is each tea different and yet the same? During these gatherings everyone leads each other; everyone is both a teacher and a student.
This dual role is enhanced further through “Steps to Thrive,” Hopeprint’s mutual mentorship program where a New American and an American-born help each other to meet individual goals. Both partners identify their dreams, whether it’s owning a home or learning Swahili. They then meet and focus on helping each other reach these goals. “Teaching is empowerment,” Nicole said, and people are able to move beyond a survival mentality through that empowerment.
Over the years, Nicole has seen many people find success in their lives. From students graduating college, to watching a family move through the steps of learning English, securing full time jobs, and owning their own house; Hopeprint continues to help people reach a place of thriving. It has even helped Nicole’s dreams come true. Today, her life matches the visions that started Hopeprint. You will often find her surrounded by neighborhood children, and, as she says, “The entire world is in my house.”
To learn how you can get involved, visit the volunteer tab on Hopeprint’s website and begin the process of being matched with the right volunteer opportunity. The Hopeprint Facebook page is another great way to stay up to date on their activities.