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“Hip” is giving Youth a voice. “Hope” is optimism for the future.
At Hip-Hope, we are dedicated to implementing evidence-based asset-based community development (ABCD) practices, leveraging the transformative power of arts and culture. O
ur approach recognizes the inherent strengths and potential within communities and utilizes creative expressions to drive positive change. By harnessing the arts as a catalyst for social impact, we engage underprivileged / over-challenged Youth in meaningful activities that promote self-expression, resilience, and community connection. Through collaborative efforts and evidence-based strategies, we empower Youth to become active participants in their own development and the revitalization of their communities. At Hip-Hope, we are committed to nurturing the talents and aspirations of young people, creating opportunities for growth, and building a brighter future together.

Our programming goals are to ENGAGE underprivileged/over-challenged Youth to identify their passions. HELP them align their passions with their purpose. SUPPORT them so they can make their passion and purpose their priority. Then GUIDE them to their promise.

We are proud of our transformative impact, having served over 10,000 underprivileged/over-challenged youth since its establishment in 2016. Through holistic development programs, including academic, financial, leadership, and creative initiatives, we annually empower over 2,000 youth directly and 100 times more virtually. Our commitment to creative expression is recognized with 12 state and city proclamations for projects emanating from our "ARTiculate Express Studios". Beyond numbers, our impact is evident in tangible outcomes, such as a 6% reduction in the West Des Moines' school district's absentee rate and the prevention of youth homicides during the anticipated deadliest Summer of 2023 through our "Trenches" program. As we promise to introduce innovation and digital literacy into all our programming, Hip-Hope remains dedicated to bridging gaps, amplifying youth voices, and fostering a future illuminated by Hope and empowerment in “Hip”, innovative, fresh and contemporary ways.

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Bo James
Believer/Exec. Director

Bo James is born and raised in the urban core of Des Moines, Iowa. Despite going up in a two parent home, being in gifted and talented, in marching band, an honor roll student and a world class athlete he realized that he was at risk. He accredits boxing and music for saving his life. By high school most of his closest peers and relatives were in gangs including his younger brother. By his senior year in high school most of them were in detention centers, prison and some had even lost their lives to the streets. He accredits music, sports and mentors for keeping him from falling into the traps of society that snared his family and friends.

7 Board Of Directors


Tracy Duran

Tracy Duran is the Director of Studio Education and Inclusion at the Des Moines Art Center where she provides vision and strategic leadership for programs that link the Art Centers studio and community educations classes to the museum and community through the development of innovative programming. In addition to her work in education, Duran provides vision and leadership for the organization’s inclusions efforts as they strive to be a cultural resource for all in the community. Duran and her team work with community partners and schools to strengthen external relationships with diverse audiences. Over the past twelve years Duran has developed and provided leadership for the Art Access program, which provides innovative and engaging art programs to underserved communities in the Des Moines Area. Through the Des Moines Art Center she has worked with various programs involving at-risk youth, displaced children at a local youth shelter, women from the Department of Corrections, and residents in an Alzheimer’s care facility. Duran has dedicated her life to empowering youth and began mentoring at the age of 17 in Las Vegas, Nevada where she grew up. She holds a BFA in painting and drawing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and an MFA from California State University, Fullerton.

Vice President

Nadir Mehta

Nadir was born in Karachi, Pakistan. Upon graduating from St. Patrick's high school, Nadir traveled to Europe to explore all the cultures this continent offers. He began his undergraduate education in electrical engineering at Oklahoma state university in Stillwater, Oklahoma. After graduating, in 1979, he began his career working for a large electrical utility located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1999, Nadir graduated with a Masters in Business Administration from Oklahoma City University. Other work experiences include working for a large telecommunication company dealing in the sale of undersea cable capacity to 5 continents. Also he worked for the state of Iowa as Director of Administrative Services under the leadership of Governor Vilsack. In this capacity, he was able to make major changes to the IT infrastructure for the State of Iowa. He worked for various Financial Services Companies in Iowa; as a consultant, helping them to make process improvements changes in their operations areas. As an expert in costing he was able to save millions of dollars for these large Corporations. Currently, Nadir is self-employed specializing in a American disabilities act. Nadir has been married, for 25 years to his wife Iveth and has three daughters Nicole, Suzanne and Elizabeth, who will be a Junior at Valley High School in 2017/2018. ​ Additionally he has two grandchildren Amrit and Myra who live in Sacramento, California with his oldest daughter. ​ His hobbies include traveling, swimming, and he enjoys volunteering at a local retirement center as a men's coffee facilitator and as well as mentoring the youth on career opportunities.

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Louis H. Fountain

A Philadelphia, PA native, Louis H. Fountain has extensive experience working in social services and education.  He truly believes his lifelong calling is "serving youth" and has strived to manifest that calling for the last 15 years.  Under His supervision, Fountain has transformed the lives of hundreds of youths, that felt hopeless. Louis’ passion for working with at-risk youth began while working with youth sex offenders and teens with mental & behavioral disorders at Kids Peace of Georgia. A fire was ignited. Upon relocating to Iowa, Louis accepted a position with United Community Services as the Head Jail Treatment Counselor. Fountain served in several facets within Polk County: Youth Services at the Teen Detention Center, Youth Shelter and as Teen Director for the YMCA of Greater Des Moines.  ​ In late 2018, Louis took a position with Des Moines Public Schools, as a Community Schools Coordinator for Des Moines Public Schools, at Callanan Middle School.  Louis, “Mr. Lou,” quickly became an indispensable and valued resource for students, staff, families & the community.  ​ Louis served diligently each day to create programs, groups, resources,& materials to break down barriers in the way of our students & families being successful. Louis embodies the quote; “Every Kid is one Caring Adult Away from being a Success Story,” as he thoughtfully places solid resources, time & energy into our students’ and families’ lives. ​ In May 2021, Fountain took a position with the Johnston Community School District as the Director of Equity, Inclusion & Belonging.  His impact was immediate, and he was an essential and esteemed part of the Johnston Schools Leadership Team, being the first administrator of color ever within the district. Currently, Des Moines Public Schools District Community Schools Coordinator, for all Elementary schools, Louis supervises coordinators who serve diligently each day to create programs, food insecurities, resources and materials to break down barriers that stand in the way of our students and families being successful. ​ Louis Fountain is an esteemed motivational speaker that grips audiences, youth,& adults, around the Des Moines Metro.  He will have you laughing and crying and sure to leave you feeling inspired.

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Valerie James

"Momma James": Valerie is affectionately known as "Momma James" due to her nurturing and caring nature, especially towards children. Her nickname reflects her deep love and commitment to the well-being of young people. Valerie James' lifelong dedication to serving her community, supporting youth, and actively engaging in various advocacy and volunteer efforts demonstrates her unwavering commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of others. 45 Years of Service: Valerie James had a distinguished career at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, spanning 45 years. She started as a Control Clerk shortly after high school graduation and eventually received a Supervisor position during her tenure. Community Advocacy: Throughout her life, Valerie has been an advocate for helping youth and improving the lives of young people. She has actively engaged in various community activities and organizations to support her advocacy. Youth Engagement: Valerie coached her daughters' softball team for five years, demonstrating her commitment to youth sports and activities. She also actively participated in her children's PTAs and volunteered for baseball and boxing events. Church and Ministry: Valerie has been an active member of her church and served as the Youth Group Leader for Mt. Hebron Baptist Church for twenty years. She has also been involved in church choir leadership. In 2018, she was ordained as an Evangelist and currently serves in that capacity at True Vine Church. Community Activism: Valerie has been a member of several community activist groups, including Concerned Citizens for Justice, NAACP, and East Side Mission. She has consistently advocated for the betterment of her community. Volunteer Work: Valerie's dedication to serving her community extends to her volunteer work, which includes cooking and serving over 100 people during funeral repasses and providing support to those in bereavement or with family members in the hospital. Executive Assistant: Currently, Valerie volunteers as the Executive Assistant for Hip Hope Inc, a non-profit organization where her son serves as the Executive Director Assistant. In this role, she contributes to coordinating youth programs and conferences, welcoming visitors, and assisting in meetings.

Youth Director

Austin Jones

Melody Reels

Melody Reels works for the Quilts of Valor Foundation Headquarters in Winterset, Iowa as the office manager. The foundation is dedicated to the healing process of veterans touched by war. Melody holds the foundation closely to her heart as she has had friends and family members who have served in the United States military. Before joining the Quilts of Valor team, Melody had worked for the Madison County Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Center as the Welcome Center’s manager for 7 years. She worked alongside the chamber staff to encourage tourism and promote local businesses. She has, and continues to help on committees, with planning, and organizing multiple events throughout the year. Those events include The Madison County Covered Bridge Festival held in the fall, The Iowa Quilt Fest in the summer, and she organizes the booth for the Chamber at the Hinterland Music Festival in St. Charles. After the 2022 tornado passed through Winterset, Melody was asked to join the Resilience Committee to help prepare for future emergencies. After meeting Bo James in 2012, Melody was inspired to help with Hip-Hope’s mission. She has volunteered her time for both the Young Men of Color Conference and the Many Shades of Colour Young Women’s Conference. Melody has been married to her high school sweetheart, Justin Reels, for 26 years. Together they have raised 4 children, with their youngest in his sophomore year in high school. Melody has enjoyed being involved in her children’s activities. From being a swim mom, to being on the band booster board,she’s encouraged and supported them in all their interests.

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Youth Director

Naomi Thames

"Of all of the historical things we've done at Hip-Hope, this is the most historic. Regardless of age, I can't think of a more deserving person to assume the role of Hip-Hope's Executive Board Member. AJ embodies all that Hip-Hope stands for and Hopes to accomplish with each Youth we engage. He's a true success story and Hopeful inspiration. We look forward to his "hip", fresh, and contemporary perspectives as we optimistically look and prepare for Hip-Hope's future."

Naomi's involvement with Hip Hope began several years ago as a junior workshop facilitator for the "Many Shades of Colour Young Women's Conference." Her ability to connect with, inspire, and educate young women is nothing short of extraordinary. Her contributions have significantly enhanced the impact of the conference, making her a valuable asset to our team. In addition to her work with "Many Shades of Colour," Naomi has actively participated in the "Hustlenomics" program and the young women's leadership retreat. Her insights and input in these programs have been instrumental in shaping their success and ensuring they remain relevant and impactful for our youth. Outside of Hip Hope, Naomi's achievements are equally impressive. She is an active member of her high school's Marching Band, Orchestra, Debate Team, and the Black Student Alliance. These experiences have honed her skills in teamwork, leadership, and effective communication – qualities that are essential for any board member. Moreover, Naomi's commitment to community service is exemplary. She has dedicated over seven years to volunteering, including visiting nursing homes and serving dinner to the community. Her involvement in multiple choirs within her local church further showcases her leadership and dedication to serving others. Naomi's multifaceted experiences, coupled with her passion for social change and youth empowerment, make her an ideal candidate for the Hip Hope Board. Her perspective as a young, driven, and talented Black woman will bring invaluable insights and contribute to the diversity of thought and experience within the board. In conclusion, I strongly recommend Naomi Thames for the Hip Hope Board. Her dedication, leadership, and commitment to community service align perfectly with the mission of Hip Hope. I am confident that she will be an exceptional addition to the board and will contribute significantly to the organization's future endeavors.

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