St. HOPE began in 1989 in a portable classroom at Sacramento High School as an after school program named St. HOPE Academy. Founded by NBA All-Star and Oak Park native Kevin Johnson, St. HOPE is a nonprofit community development corporation whose mission is to revitalize the Oak Park community through public education, and economic development.
Over the last 27 years, St. HOPE has dramatically improved Oak Park through its holistic community development approach, and has made a major economic impact and contribution in the community. St. HOPE has started, attracted or catalyzed the creation of 20 businesses throughout the community resulting in nearly 300 jobs. These efforts have generated a significant infusion of capital in the community, including more than $43 million in economic and real estate development investments.
St. HOPE has birthed two major revitalization projects that combined have initiated an education and economic resurgence in the underserved, inner-city community of Oak Park, California. In May 2003, St. HOPE opened the 40 Acres Art and Cultural Center, a 25,000 square foot mixed-use facility located in the heart of Oak Park’s commercial district which today houses Old Soul, Underground Books, The Guild Theater, and 12 loft-style apartments. The goal of 40 Acres has always been to create a destination locale serving as a catalyst for economic and cultural renewal.
St. HOPE opened St. HOPE Public Schools, a preK-12 independent public charter school system that is currently comprised of five schools. The goal of St. HOPE Public Schools is to provide Oak Park youth (as well as young people living in similar communities across the country) with a continuum of high quality education from preschool through high school; an education that prepares students for success in a four-year college as well as instills within them a commitment to serving others.
Underground Books opened in the summer of 2003 and is the literary hub of Oak Park. Since the closing of the only library in Oak Park in the 1970’s, it became the mission of St. HOPE founder, Kevin Johnson, to ensure that the students and the community had access to books. As part of the larger 40 Acres Cultural Center, Underground Books is a nonprofit under St. HOPE and has become a gathering place for neighborhood residents. Underground Books hosts book signings by local and national authors, lectures, poetry events, children’s story time, radio shows and much more!
Managed and operated by Georgia “Mother Rose” West, the bookstore has proudly become a well-known pillar in the Oak Park community.