Chris Gross

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Program Coordinator
Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans
New Orleans, La.
(504) 484-7744

Gross and Glenn, a Boys Hope resident.

Photo: Photo courtesy of Chris Gross

Age: 24

Annual Salary: $21,600, plus room and board as a house parent.

About the Organization: Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans is part of a privately funded national nonprofit that helps academically capable and motivated children who have unstable home environments. Many of them are being raised by single parents, by grandparents or other relatives, or by very transient families.

“We bring in kids who have the potential to do better in school, but as a result of their current home environment, they are struggling,” says program coordinator Chris Gross.

The youths, most of whom are ages 12 through 14, move into group homes and attend private schools in New Orleans. Eight boys live in one home, and eight girls live in another. Staff members serve as house parents and become their primary guardians. There are similar homes in 18 other cities.

His Job: “My job is bringing in a new family or youth, helping them through the admissions process, hiring new staff, making sure our kids’ needs are being met, like doctors’ appointments.

“I had been serving as assistant to our last program coordinator for about three years. When the last PC left in April, my job was just being interim PC.” Then the “interim” was removed.

“I was hesitant at first, because I was worried I didn’t have enough experience. I think I’ve done a good job. Before [I came to the job], we had no new staff and no new kids, but now we have a full staff of seven and seven new kids being presented this summer.”

Gross is also in his last year at Loyola Law School.

Best Part: “Just seeing the kids succeed. This year, one of our oldest is graduating high school and is off to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He was one of the ones that came before the storm. It was great seeing him stick it out through Katrina.

“I just became godfather to three of the girls this past year when they were baptized. I love seeing their home life and family life transform with a little bit of love and support.”

Worst Part: “Having to say no to some children. There are so many kids that need help. A grandmother may call us in tears. If we help the wrong kind of kids, they are taking up space for the right kind of kids. I’d love to have 20 homes with eight children in each, but I know that’s not possible.”

Memorable Moment: “When one of our kids stayed behind during the storm with his family – he said he was evacuating, but ended up staying. We kind of snuck back a few days before they started letting people back in the city and got him out of his house and back to Mississippi with the rest of the kids.”

The Storm: “The night before [Hurricane Katrina hit] was our 25th anniversary gala. I skipped to spend the night with the kids. I told everybody to pack two changes of clothes, because, like everyone, I thought it was just going to be a couple of days. We first went to Baton Rouge, but we ended up having the girls in Natchez, Miss., and the boys stayed in Baton Rouge. For the first month, we gave the girls reading and math in Natchez; the girls wanted to get back to structure.” The boys ended up in Destrehan, La. The residents did not return to New Orleans until August 2006.

“The girls’ home is still rebuilding, so they live in an old convent. …

“Before the storm, referrals were higher for young men. Now, we have more for young ladies. Usually, a girl is uncontrollable or pregnant, but now it’s just her family life is unstable.”

Key to the Program: “We really do consider ourselves a family. We are all helping in the raising of the kids. We take them to camp, and go to their graduations. We pay for them to go to college as well. We just make sure they can do well – do well in college and after.”