IMG_2953Onasia, a RHI Youth Leader, started a list of colleges she is interested in attending after graduating high school. She is one of many young people in RHI’s On Your Mark program for high school juniors. Participants learn about college by taking tours on campus, sitting in classes, meeting with current students, and observing student life and extra-curricular activities. Last week, Onasia took a tour of CUNY and brought her experience back to RHI to share with her peers. Her fellow Youth Leaders led a panel discussion and virtual tour for dozens of high school students just like them. When asked what advice she shares with her peers about visiting colleges, Onasia recommends: “taking your time to look at colleges, considering the pros and cons, and then making a list of your top five choices.”

IMG_2950Often the first in their families to attend college, RHI participants are part of a support system beginning in high school that increases exposure to college options and provides assistance with applications and financial aid forms. Once enrolled in school, participants become College Scholars, gaining access to scholarship application support, tutoring, advocacy, and employment or paid internship opportunities for summer vacations. Freshmen are supported most intensively with campus visits, bi-weekly check-in calls, and peer support events. By senior year, College Scholars are offered transition counseling as they plan for life after college. RHI’s holistic approach ensures that youth participants persevere toward their academic and personal goals.


The Red Hook Winery presents: exclusive wines for Red Hook Initiative

_MG_9742The Red Hook Winery has partnered with Red Hook Initiative (RHI) to create three wines with labels designed by young adults from Red Hook, Brooklyn. RHI’s Digital Stewards (ages 19 – 24) complete a year-long fellowship in technology and media training. As part of the graphic design component of their training in fall 2015, Digital Stewards collaborated with the Red Hook Winery to create three wine labels. The Digital Stewards crafted, presented, and refined concept designs for the Winery, resulting in three new label designs. Valentino adorns Red Hook Winery’s Merlot and pays homage to the pier outside the Digital Stewards office window.  This blackened purple Merlot has a medium bodied flavor profile of mint, dark berries, spice. The Red Hook Winery chose two different labels for their medium-full bodied 2015 Chardonnay with aromatic notes of chamomile flowers and orange zest. These labels pay tribute to Red Hook’s rich history: Roede Hoek refers to the original Dutch name for the neighborhood, while Pointers and Creekers is a nod to Red Hook’s rival gangs, who formed alliances during the turn of the century in order to survive.


In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated Red Hook, leaving residents without electricity or heat for nearly a month. In the immediate wake of the storm, RHI operated as the neighborhood recovery hub, distributing food and supplies, delivering meals to homebound residents, and organizing volunteers to clear water and debris from local businesses. One of these businesses was the Red Hook Winery. When asked why he continues to partner with RHI, Mark Snyder, owner of Red Hook Winery, says, “We wouldn’t be here without Red Hook Initiative, especially after the storm.” Red Hook Winery will generously donate 10% of proceeds from these wines, available for purchase here, to RHI’s youth development programs. Any order can be gift wrapped for free with a personalized gift message.

The Red Hook Winery, founded in 2008, creates wines specially crafted with a variety of local grapes, and aims to discover what New York means in liquid form.

How RHI Youth Spent Summer Vacation



For RHI middle school participants, the summer was anything but quiet. 35 middle school youth spent their summer vacation immersed in programs here in Red Hook as well as throughout New York City. Made possible by funding from School’s Out New York City through the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development, days at RHI were spent rotating between dance instruction, steel drumming workshops, technology programs, and more. Trips to local sites included Coney Island, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and Rye Playland; the range of programs and day trips kept youth excited and looking forward to every day.

A steel drum workshop became a fast favorite among Red Hook youth this summer.

A steel drum workshop became a fast favorite among Red Hook youth this summer.

Malcolm West, Middle School Group Leader and former RHI participant, observed that youth “displayed leadership skills and discovered new talents for the first time” during summer program, recalling an activity in Prospect Park where the only way to reach the finish line was by working together.

Josie, who will be in 8th grade this fall, reflected on her summer: “My favorite program was learning how to make a commercial for a popular video game.” Through working with her peers on the team-building project, Josie says she not only learned but made new friends in the process. Meanwhile, RHI continued to engage other community members this summer, with 24 young adults enrolled in Professional Development, 50 Local Leaders in training, and 60 high school students hired for paid positions. This summer has set the stage for a productive beginning to the new school year.