Invited by the IDEAL Center, Bob and Elaine Curry visited the college Wednesday to discuss the Hazleton Integration Project (HIP), a community educational project founded by Bob Curry and Joe Maddon ’76. The Currys and Maddon, both from Hazleton, Penn., wanted to “level the playing field,” as the Currys described it, when the community at large did not welcome with open arms an influx of immigrants and their children.
Elaine explained that Hazleton residents insisted on “English only” for the immigrants and their children, especially the heavy Latino population in the area.
The Currys, who helped spearhead the initiative, said they decided to build a community center in Hazleton, called the Hazleton One Community Center. After planning, they bought a school in the area that was no longer being used and transformed it into the community center.
According to Elaine, they were shocked when around 2,000 people walked into their door the first day that HIP opened. Elaine then reached out to everyone she knew in the community, ranging from musicians to artists and sports instructors, asking if they could do a summer program with the children. According to Elaine, the HIP soon turned into an after school program for kids in the area.
Maddon and the Currys sat down at dinner one night and came up with the idea of creating HIP, Bob said.
Bob said that HIP is a non-profit organization that aims to provide educational, cultural and athletic opportunities for kids who come from economically disadvantaged families. An organization like this was lacking in their hometown of Hazleton, Penn. five years ago.
When one audience member asked about the financial risks that they had to take to start this project and what they did to raise the funds, Bob insisted that one should not expect a blank check from some big corporates in order to provide sustainability for the project. He said he decided that the best way was to find a place that they could attract other local non-profits to lease the space to create income.
When an audience member asked about how the Currys measure their success in the program, Bob mentioned the student outcome at HIP. The Currys explained that now students are getting into STEM schools in the area, whereas five years ago, no HIP graduates could make it.
According to Elaine Curry, HIP now partners with the Penn State University Main Campus for a virtual tutoring program. Twice a week the HIP students skype with junior and senior education students at Penn State who tutor them at all subjects. HIP also provides programs for parents that provide classes on parenting.