Meet Natalie Tung
When Natalie was growing up in Hong Kong, as an English-speaking student in a Chinese school, she remembers hearing her classmates brag about getting 90s while she was failing. But at the age of 14, she had the opportunity to attend a boarding school in the US. While she had to leave her family and culture behind, through living with her teachers and classmates, she felt like she was no longer learning for grades, but learning to make sense of her identity and the world. She felt safe to be herself. Most importantly, she lived in a dorm with 40 other young women. It made her realize that when women come together, they are powerful and unstoppable. These women are still her strongest support system today. Natalie wanted to bring her love for learning to the next generation, so she studied to become a teacher. When teaching in Trenton, NJ, her incredible students expressed not feeling safe and heard in their schools and communities. While they were from different parts of the world, they shared similar experiences. This feeling of kinship made her think, "What if I could provide the same experience that was transformative for me as a high schooler to my students here in Trenton?"
A Word from Our Founder
Watch how Natalie's personal boarding school experience inspired her to develop a new educational model in the city of Trenton.
Natalie realized that when women come together, they can do anything and everything. Statistics show that boarding schools can be a great equalizer and give women the confidence to do things they didn’t know was possible. For example, 87% of boarding school graduates reported being ready for college, compared to 39% of public schools.
But there are barriers for access, and often times students feel like they have to shed their identity as a cost. Natalie wondered, "What if we could bring the benefits of a boarding school to public schools, but without high costs or removing students from their community?"
In 2016, Natalie co-founded HomeWorks as a week-day after-school residential program for marginalized girls. The model centered around four main components:
Dormitory Living and Meals
Round-trip Transportation to School
At HomeWorks, we are creating a community of women to reclaim power over their cultures, identities and experiences.
Over the past 6 years we have raised 2 million to impact 50 students, and successfully run 5 programs.
Our first year • Summer Residential Pilot • 5 Scholars • Raised $97,170 • Measured Social-Emotional Growth
Increasing our impact • Summer Residential Program • 10 Scholars • Raised $106,898 • Measured Social-Emotional Growth
During the school year • Fall Residential Program • 11 Scholars • Raised $269,126 • Improved Attendance • Measured Social- Emotional Growth
2020 - 2021
Through the pandemic • Adapted In-Person Day Program (M-F, 8am-5pm) • 12 Scholars • Raised $444,828 • 93% Attendance Rate (vs. 70% attendance rate in Trenton) • 2.8 Average GPA (vs. 1.3 Median in Trenton) • Measured Social-Emotional Growth
2021 - 2022
Our first academic year-long residential program • Fully in-person residential program • 11 Scholars • Daily in-person programming • Daily in-person academic assistance • Increased focus on mental well-being and social emotional health • Daily meals and transportation • Our first graduating senior, Darae, has been accepted to 9 colleges and is attending Montclair State University on a full ride • A 93% attendance rate compared to 70% in Trenton schools, which are risk factors for poverty and homelessness.
To expand chapters of HomeWorks all around the country and world, where we can create communities of women to feel safe to explore and be themselves, to achieve their full potential and to create ground-up people-driven systems of change within their communities.