Susana Vaca Coca, Immigration Advocate, Rockaway Justice Center

Most fashion shows aim to showcase high-end merchandise worn by willowy girls. “Hour Fashion Night,” an event organized by Johanna Flores, Employment Coordinator at Hour Working Women Program (HWWP) and sponsored by Queens Defenders (QD), turned that concept inside out by featuring real women in affordable clothing.

Most of the models were formerly incarcerated individuals enrolled in HWWP and the staff who work with them. HWWP was created by Hour Children to help participants achieve self-sufficiency and provide for their families by obtaining meaningful, stable jobs with living wages.

Through HWWP’s one-to-one services, they gain hard and soft skills and targeted employment placement. HWWP’s flexible enrollment dates enable each client and her providers to tailor a program and a schedule that fits into her life, accommodates her responsibilities, and meets her training needs.

Setting reasonable expectations and attainable goals that realistically reflect each woman’s interests, educational level, and wage requirements, while remaining mindful of the realities of the job marketplace, is also part of the program. Group and one-on-one mentoring guarantee that participants learn appropriate social skills for work environments.

QD provides weekly services at Hour Children’s Long Island City offices including immigration-related screenings, intakes, and mindfulness meditation sessions. In addition, QD offers monthly Know Your Rights Workshops to Hour Children clients and local residents.

All profits from the fashion show were designated for expansion of the HWWP computer lab.