HOPE Buffalo began with a mission to address teen pregnancy. But, instead of a group of adults talking to each other about how to reach teens with their message, they turned to the teens themselves.
"It makes me a better person and it helps me inspire and educate others which makes me happy at the end of the day," explained Joel Richards.
Richards is one of HOPE Buffalo's Youth Outreach Leaders. He just graduated from Frederick Law Olmsted High School, but has spent the past two years working with the organization.
Buffalo's teen pregnancy rate is more than double the rate across New York State, according to HOPE Buffalo. The group works with more than 60 community organizations and dozens of people to promote healthy teen lifestyles across the city.
"It's an honor working with this community and being a big impact on it," he said. "It's a great feeling knowing I'm doing my part to help out and I'm truly humbled to have this opportunity."
One thing that Richards finds unique and successful about HOPE Buffalo is the adult organizers' excitement about working with teens in the community and using their ideas to achieve the mission.
"Finding out what, even me, like what I want," Richards said. "What other teens want. Bringing those ideas together. And to have caring adults by our side helping make things happen, make things work, is fantastic."
While HOPE Buffalo started to address teen pregnancy, the group has been tackling a wide variety of health challenges for the city's youth from the very beginning. It connects teens to resources for mental health, housing, substance use and many others.
To learn more about HOPE Buffalo, click here.