After the Webinar: Examining the Power and Science of Hope. Q&A with Rick Miller

Webinar presenter Rick Miller answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Examining the Power and Science of Hope: Understanding Kids@Hope for Justice Professionals. Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: How do you define despair? Is it a time machine to a frozen bad result, or is it no time machine at all? 

Rick Miller:  There’s a concept called, being present in time and space. When you’re present in time and space, you’re in control of your past and your future. What happens is that despair is either going into the future too quickly before you have a plan to move there. So, you become frustrated, you become anxious, or it maybe you’re traveling back into the past where you may have regrets or a sense of sadness. So, what we want to do is we want to get you a GPS system that brings you to the present and allow you to focus at the moment in time where you have the most control over yourself, and then begin to construct a future that doesn’t exist for you, and come up with plans, and pathways and agency to pursue it. It’s the absence of those strategic efforts that creates a sense of despair, or anxiety, or frustration.



Audience Question: Can you tell us again, what was the name of the movie that you did the clip? I think it was Hilary, something rather. What was that clip you just showed? 

Rick Miller: It’s based on a New York Times best-selling book called The Freedom Writers Diary. A first-year teacher, Erin Gruwell was assigned 150 throwaway kids. She stayed with them for four years, at Wilson High School Long Beach. No one in the school or community believed Erin could help these kids be successful educationally. At the end of four years, they wrote a best-selling book. Their story inspired the movie, Freedom Writers. Erin was played by Hilary Swank.



Audience Question: Where do life changes or challenges fit in this HOPE scale? So, as we move through life, you know, things happen, we move from, from school to a job, to retirement, and other major, significant life changes. How does the HOPE scale affect our abilities as we walk through those changes?

Rick Miller:  Taking the hope scale is like taking your blood pressure. I think you can substitute blood pressure for the HOPE scale, and say, as you go through life, your blood pressure changes, because of diet, because sleep activities, because of frustration, all kinds of things. We must be attentive to our blood pressure. And I think equally, we must be attentive to our sense of Hope. We maintain our goals, our pathways, and our agency. And yes, like a blood pressure reading changes, Hope Scale readings change. There’s a children’s HOPE scale. We can use this, the same ideas of measurement to determine whether kids are high, low, or average in HOPE. And we can do that for youth as young as age eight. The HOPE scale goes from age eight to 18 years of age. So, part of our work is if you have an organization that wants to use the Adult HOPE scale or the Children’s HOPE scale, we’re happy to make that available to you and work with your organization.



Audience Question: What was the name of your book, again?

Rick Miller: My book is called The Soul, Science, and Culture of HOPE. It sells for $20 on our website,



Audience Question: Do you believe that the pandemic is maybe lowering people’s scale of HOPE? 

Rick Miller: I think if we took a snapshot, like taking blood pressure, at any given time during the pandemic, it would impact one’s sense of hopefulness. If you have someone in your immediate family friends, colleagues, what have you, that contracted COVID, your HOPE score would be affected by that. So, no question that there are situations in life, a death, loss of a job, a personal setback, a divorce, an illness, whatever, will always affect HOPE. But that’s where your GPS system comes into play. You must ground yourself. You must be in the present moment and then lookout for what’s best for you. So, if something of consequence happens to you, don’t, for example, start eating just chocolate cake and ice-cream, right? You don’t start eating just Frito chips. Make sure that you are in the present moment and doing what’s good for you because if you do what’s good for you, it’s good for everybody else around you.



Audience Question: Just a quick point of clarification, Rick, I know that the title is kids at HOPE, it sounds like all of these principles are also applicable to adults as well. Correct? 

Rick Miller:  Yes, over time, we’ve come to that understanding. Our research project early on was focused on trying to reverse the youth-at-risk paradigm and trying to find enough scholarly support to challenge that some kids were at risk. As we went on, we discovered that you cannot have a kid at hope until you first have an adult at hope. And how do you create an adult at hope? You make sure adults are believed and connected to and learn to time travel. Once they have experienced that sense of the power of people believing in them, the power of people connecting with them, and the power of learning how to time travel, then, they can translate that to the young people they serve.



Audience Question: Have you studied the relationship between HOPE and social and emotional learning? 

Rick Miller: Absolutely. We’re intersecting with that all the time. So, the whole idea of social-emotional learning is a new skill set that we want to make sure every child has, right? So, we’re always creating these cognitive skill sets. And we do it sometimes in the absence of a foundational piece that holds all this together. We’ve gone from character education in the 1990’s as a new curriculum. We’ve gone through restorative justice. We’ve gone through PBIS. We always have something circling in and circling out. But what we haven’t had is the culture that roots those programs. And that becomes a culture of HOPE. Character education or math and science, and all the other things that we try to teach kids. But what’s been missing is the framework. None of those efforts work, unless you first believe, connect, and time travel. So, just constantly offering new programs or new curriculum or new initiatives can be self-defeating unless the foundation, “the soil” is rich with nutrients, so whatever you plant, it has a chance to grow. We believe those nutrients include believe, connect, and time travel.



Audience Question: What are some ways that you’ve seen juvenile justice organizations incorporate Kids@HOPE? 

Rick Miller: Well, that is the main theme for the October 15th event. We have Tim Hardy, the president of APPA, and the director of the Juvenile Court Center in Yuma County, Arizona. We have Joe Barton, the Chief Juvenile Probation Officer of Randolph County, Texas We have John Schow, who is the Court administrator and Chief Probation officer for Cochise County in Arizona. He has a long history, in the court system, and a as well as in juvenile and adult systems. In terms of introducing Kids at Hope into the justice system we begin by training. Each of those agencies, everyone has gone through a common series of training to get them on the same page. It is not just 1 or 2 people who attend the training which often happens in programs.  Train a couple of specialists and then they run with the program. But, in our case, what we’re doing is creating a cultural service delivery mechanism so, we train everybody. When I say everybody that includes the front office, people in the back office, the cafeteria, people, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is part of the culture.  So, if there was one way that I would say you would roll this out, and John, Joe, and Tim will talk about it on the 15th, is that you’ve got to get everybody trained. We must break out of our bureaucratic roles and our specialty roles and understand that we’re stronger together than any one of us are alone. Culture allows us to do that.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Examining the Power and Science of Hope: Understanding Kids@Hope for Justice Professionals.



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