Sr. Eileen McNerney, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, founded Taller San Jose Hope Builders in 1995. But this story really begins in 1992, when she invited three other nuns to move with her to a gang-ridden neighborhood in Santa Ana, California, where gun shots and drug sales at that time were commonplace. One hot summer evening, Sister Eileen listened helplessly as a piercing cry rang through the open windows of her busy street; it was the agonizing wail of a mother who had just lost her second son to gang violence.
This moment marked a turning point for Sister Eileen in her resolve to develop a program that could move young people from violence to productivity. By bringing together sponsors representing local government, churches, corporations, foundations, and private individuals, Sister Eileen opened an educational and job-training center in downtown Santa Ana for high-risk youth ages 18 – 28. She named the center Taller San Jose Hope Builders.
Today it is an enterprise with revenues around 5 million and a staff of around 30. A recipient of many local and international awards, Sr Eileen and Taller San Jose identified poverty itself as the biggest barrier to advancement and acquired great expertise in creating programs that specifically address those barriers.
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