Messages from the President & CEO

Why DE&I Matters – at Hillside, and Everywhere

Hillside is a part of the communities we serve. Our employees don’t just work closely with young people, adults and families—they’re our neighbors. Their challenges are our challenges, and our successes impact their lives and so many others.

With this in mind, we recognize the absolute importance of fostering Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Hillside. It’s the right thing to do for our staff, who deserve to work in an environment that prioritizes DE&I. And it’s essential for our work with vulnerable youth and families, many of whom struggle with multigenerational income- and race-based inequities.

Our ongoing DE&I work includes elements such as:

  • Hosting monthly regional DE&I committee meetings among all interested staff, where open discussions broaden understandings around vital topics.
  • Supporting the formation of groups for Hillside men and women of color, where unique perspectives can be shared.
  • Sponsoring presentations to leaders on racism, white privilege and other recognized issues, and encouraging those learnings to be shared among staff.
  • Engaging with external partners such as the United Way and the Ibero-American Action League to explore new insights that can strengthen the communities in which we live and serve.

In 2022 and beyond, you’ll hear more from Hillside about our ongoing work in DE&I, and our commitment to helping individuals and whole communities fulfill their potential.

As always, you’re an important partner in our work. Please consider joining our team and making a difference!

Join Us, and Make a Difference

Happy Holidays! No matter your cultural or religious traditions, this time of year naturally calls to mind a spirit of generosity, and making a contribution to improve the lives of others.

At Hillside, that spirit is with us year-round. Our mission is embraced by the entire Hillside community—by our programmatic teams and even in “support” areas such as facilities, food service or finance, to name only a few. No matter their job title, everyone at Hillside plays a vital role in helping children, adults and families achieve their goals of a healthier, happier future.

Our positive impact starts with our people—and I encourage you to consider joining Hillside today.

As you’ll note in our Careers section, Hillside is hiring! Our diverse positions offer flexible scheduling possibilities as well as competitive pay and benefits. We understand the importance of work-life balance, and we do all we can to support our employees as people, not just workers.

People ask me, What are the benefits of working at Hillside? First and foremost, it’s making a difference in the lives of children and families, each and every day. Joining our family brings countless opportunities and rewards, starting with the privilege of helping those in need.

Please consider starting the New Year with a new and exciting career. All of us at Hillside wish you and your family a safe, healthy and happy holiday season.

A ‘Special’ Community Tradition

Welcome to our new website, and a new way of looking at Hillside! Each month on this page, I’ll share new thoughts about our mission; our work with youth, adults and families; our extraordinary employees; our community impact—and all the ways that you can be a part of our success.

For my first message, I’d like to note the kickoff of an annual Hillside tradition. Each year at this time, we launch Special Santa —a remarkable effort that unites every Hillside program, and the generosity of individuals and businesses throughout the regions we serve.

Too many young people who participate in Hillside programs live at or below the poverty line. For these children and their siblings, holiday gifts can be rare or non-existent. No matter your cultural or religious background, we can all agree that every child deserves the joy of unwrapping a toy or gift at a special time of year.

For nearly 40 years, Special Santa has made that possible. Last year alone, donations put more than 6,500 gifts into the hands of over 4,000 young people served by Hillside. It’s a powerful act of community good will—and this year, with your help, we’ll make that magic happen again.

While you’re visiting our site today, I hope you’ll take a look at how the all-online Special Santa program works. And before you leave this page, please consider exploring the other sections of this new Hillside Strong area of hillside.com. Hillside is a dynamic agency, and we can’t wait to share our story with you.

Hillside President & CEO Issues Statement on Daniel Prude Grand Jury Finding

In response to reports earlier this week of a result in grand jury proceedings in the death of Daniel Prude, Hillside President & CEO Maria Cristalli shared the message below with staff:

Eleven months ago, Rochester Police Department officers responded to a call involving a man experiencing a mental health crisis named Daniel Prude. One week later, he died after being hospitalized as a result of what occurred during that call.

Yesterday, a grand jury chose not to indict any of the officers involved in that incident. I know I’m not alone in my heartbreak and frustration over this news.

In Rochester and around the country, stories have become staggeringly common of people of color who face terrible and disproportionate outcomes following police interventions. A few nights ago, a young Black man in Texas was arrested while simply walking home from work. And of course, just last month a 9-year-old Rochester girl was pepper-sprayed by police during another non-violent call for assistance.

Protests in Rochester re-emerged last night in response to the grand jury’s decision. Thankfully the protests were peaceful, but they nonetheless reflected a community’s pain, and a need for accountability that remains out of reach.

We can’t bring Daniel Prude back, or erase the trauma experienced by that 9-year-old girl. But we can fight back against the systemic racism that makes these acts possible. Hillside will continue to advocate with local and state authorities for structural change in how mental health services are integrated into police response protocols. And within the Hillside community, it’s inspiring to see the consistently strong—and growing—engagement among so many of you concerning these issues.

I implore you: Stay engaged. Keep talking. Do not lose hope. We can make a difference, together.

Maria Cristalli
President & CEO

“Change can begin with a single act”: A Message From Hillside President & CEO Maria Cristalli

Maria Cristalli, Hillside’s President and Chief Executive Officer, today shared an open letter with employees concerning a January 29 incident in the City of Rochester. Her message is shared below.

Dear Hillside Colleagues,

Last Friday afternoon, a 9-year-old Rochester child was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by police during a response to a nonviolent mental health call. As a member of the Hillside family and as a human being, I am deeply troubled by this heartbreaking incident.

No child should ever be treated this way. Children in distress deserve compassion, support and empathy. This incident is another painful example of the need for sweeping changes in behavioral health services. Hillside has a responsibility to be part of a sincere and action-oriented community conversation on reform.

Additionally, the systemic racism tied to this incident can’t be overlooked. We all understand the linkages between race and a lack of access to vital mental health services. Individually and as an organization, we must stand against all forms of racism and oppression, and support like-minded efforts to do the same.

Hillside leaders have reached out to the newly formed Person in Crisis team at the City of Rochester to offer our support and assistance in working with children experiencing behavioral health challenges. We will also connect with the facilitators of Crisis Intervention Team training to offer assistance on crisis prevention/de-escalation strategies for children.

Complex multigenerational problems can’t be solved overnight, but our work shows us every day that change can begin with a single act. The children and families of the communities we serve—and of all communities—deserve our best efforts.

Maria Cristalli
President and CEO

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