HW-SC Success Stories
As she prepares to graduate from Potomac High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Chlo’e Gadson can remember the first time she heard of Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection. Six years ago, as a middle school student, she was encouraged to join the program by a HW-SC Youth Advocate who recognized her potential.
“Those after-school sessions would lead the way to my success through middle school and high school,” she recalls. “Hillside shaped me into the person I am today.”
True to the program’s name, HW-SC Youth Advocates form connections with participating students that provide support and guidance—especially in partnership with teachers, school staff, family members and employer partners. The results of those connections are seen every year, when students like Chlo’e walk across the stage to receive their well-deserved high school diplomas.
“These aren’t just regular people,” Chlo’e says of the YAs with whom she bonded during her time in the program. “They love what they do, and they genuinely care about the students. They helped me grow as a person, and helped me with my resume for jobs. Thanks to them I stayed on top of my school work, and I look at the bigger picture outside of school. I visited colleges, and learned to balance my school work with my extra-curricular activities.
“Sometimes students don’t have that support system that they need,” she adds, “but without Hillside, I honestly don’t know who or where I would be.”
After she collects her diploma, Chlo’e will head to Towson University to pursue a degree in Psychology. “It’s kind of bittersweet knowing that this is my last year with Hillside. Joining this program is a decision I will never regret.”
Carmona Ross: “It took one Advocate to believe in me”
Ultimately, a high school diploma would only be the beginning of Carmona Ross’ academic journey. As a middle school student in 1992, however, that future was tough for her to imagine.
“I’d been having trouble with some of my classes,” Carmona recalls. “This lady at school started asking me questions about my goals, like college. But I never thought I could go to college—my family was poor, we were struggling to get by, and so I thought it wasn’t for me.”
The woman, Annette Gantt, was a Youth Advocate for Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection; soon, she’d persuaded Carmona to give HW-SC a try. “She saw something in me that I didn’t see at the time,” Carmona says. “She was extremely persistent. And eventually I began to believe in myself.”
Through her close-knit partnership with Annette, her mother and her teachers, Carmona saw her grades and her confidence increase as she moved through high school. Along the way, she began visualizing a path toward college and a community-oriented career.
“I’m a living and breathing product of Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection,” she says. “I graduated high school on time with honors. Earned my dual bachelor’s degree; my first Master’s in Political Science; my second Master’s in Public Administration. Now I’ve been accepted to a PhD program. So I will say that the program works.”
Carmona will pursue her doctorate while keeping her day job with Planned Parenthood, where she develops cultural competence and health literacy programs. Even with those commitments, she still devotes volunteer hours to local nonprofits. She’s dedicated to using her time wisely, and to giving back.
“And it started back in school,” she insists. “It took one Advocate to believe in me, a young person from the inner city from a single-parent household that didn’t see potential in herself. Where would I be now without that? I don’t know.”
Jermaine LeGree: Forming Connections for the Future
Jermaine LeGree was a middle school student when he first heard about Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection from his mother. “Mom put me in the program as soon as I set foot in high school,” he recalls. “She told me it would help me get a job and scholarships, and boost my resume.”
Over the next several years, Jermaine’s commitment to that transformative program would do even more—helping to prepare the student for success in school, and the bright future he had always visualized for himself.
HW-SC was developed more than 30 years ago to reverse the trend of low graduation rates among students facing socioeconomic challenges. The foundation of the program’s success is the connection between each participating student and their HW-SC Youth Advocate (YA), a dedicated professional placed in the school who provides structure and motivation.
Jermaine found his caring connection with Tomeka Green. An HW-SC alumna who became a YA as a way of giving back to the kids in her community, Green helped the young man unite all dimensions of his life. In her YA role, she checked in regularly with the student, his teachers and even his family at home; facilitated academic tutoring and job readiness training; and even helped him secure his first part-time job.
This model of coordinated support has been proven to make a difference in the lives of students whose socioeconomic backgrounds put them at an increased risk of not graduating from high school.
“My favorite thing about Mrs. Green is her attitude. She gets straight to business,” says Jermaine. “She kept me on track with my schoolwork and my different responsibilities – like a second mom, I guess. Sometimes that was just what I needed.” “I understand where the kids are coming from, what they’re going through, because someone helped me,” Green says.
Between his part-time job and Green’s one-on-one mentoring, Jermaine developed the time-management and prioritization skills he needed to balance his schoolwork, job and extracurricular activities. “Being both an employee and a student can be stressful,” explains Jermaine, “but it’s taught me important life lessons.”
Having completed the HW-SC program and graduated high school, Jermaine is now enrolled at Pace University in New York City, where he has his sights on a BFA acting program major and a science minor.
“Hillside has had a huge impact on my life,” he enthuses. “The Work- Scholarship program helped me focus on my goals and make them happen.”
Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection improves the lives of individual students and whole communities—and the program requires strong community support to keep going. Your generous donations can help HW-SC connect more students with their goals of graduation, college and career.