Sealholder Spotlight: Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection

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Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection is an affiliate of the Hillside Family of Agencies, hosting a range of programs and services that work both individually and together to put children, youth and families on a path to success and help break the damaging cycles of poverty, trauma, and neglect. In 2015, Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection of Prince George’s County, MD became accredited under the Standards for Excellence program. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Executive Director Karene Brodie about the organization’s history, programs and experience as a new Standards for Excellence seal holder.

What follows is a condensed transcript of that conversation.

Tell me a little about the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection.

Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection (HW-SC) is a nationally recognized, evidence-informed initiative to promote education opportunities for young people in Prince George’s County, Maryland. We aim to influence the learning processes through academic support, positive development and workforce readiness training. Our goal is to dramatically increase graduation rates, and to provide resources for college and career planning. The cornerstone of the HW-SC model is our Youth Advocacy program. Our Youth Advocates are full-time professionals who work to remove the barriers to a young person’s success at school, at home, and places of employment.

Can you describe some of the services you provide to your community?

Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection offers 360-degree support services year round for young people in middle and high school. Our services include youth advocate mentoring and case management, family engagement, afterschool enrichments and a robust summer academy. They also include core subject tutoring, standardized test preparation, post-secondary planning and support, life skills development and youth employment training. We are currently serving over 500 students in  eight middle and high schools in the Prince George’s County’s Public School system (PGCPS).

How did you learn about the Standards for Excellence accreditation program, and why did you decide to participate?

We learned about the Standards for Excellence program by virtue of being in Prince George’s County and through our membership with Maryland Nonprofits, sponsor of the Standards for Excellence Institute. We are also members of Human Services Coalition of Prince George’s County, also a Standards for Excellence sealholder, where I presently serve on the board. We realized the value of accreditation as a marker of high quality and accountability distinction, and we were eager to pursue this opportunity.

Your organization became accredited in April of 2015, and you announced your accomplishment through your website, social media and on some of your publications. What has been the response from your community?

Very complimentary, favorable and inquisitive. Our partners have inquired about the process and have celebrated the accomplishment, and parents have inquired what the accreditation model represents. Our funders and stakeholders have also celebrated our accreditation status

While going through the application process, did you come across any situations where you were able to apply the Standards for Excellence to strengthen a component of your organization’s structure?

Having recently been accredited, I’m certain we have yet to fully realize the accreditation’sdepth of benefit. However, going through process provided wonderful opportunity to look back on how we conduct business and examine ways to further improve upon our success. The application process provided the opportunity to examine various facets of our infrastructure, and to explore opportunities for further growth. It was quite affirming to see how many things we were already doing according to the standards which contributed to greater morale for the team and an eagerness to pursue a Tier III status for the organization.

How has your accreditation impacted your organization’s governance and operations?

The application process involved members of our Governing and Advisory Boards, organizational leadership, and various levels of staff.  The opportunity for our staff to come together to explore the benchmarks and reflect upon our practices was a huge value-add.

In addition to your recent accreditation, are there any other accomplishments you’d like to highlight?

Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection was  inducted into the Catalog for Philanthropy of Greater Washington, We’ve also been recognized by Social Impact 100, an organization that recognizes 100 nonprofits across the nation who are making a difference in the lives of young people. We’ve just launched a summer youth employment training academy to complement our traditional offerings that yielded  high success in program innovation. At Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, we feel strongly that exposing young people to college and career opportunities further supports them in making wise decisions for academic [and life] pursuits.

The Hillside Family of Agencies is based in Rochester, NY, and operates Work-Scholarship Connection programs in Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, as well as Prince George’s County, MD. Their mission is to help students overcome the barriers of generational poverty by giving them necessary guidance and the tools to be successful in school – expanding their access to education and employment opportunities.  For more information about the Prince George’s County Work Scholarship Connection program, please call (301)446-3691 or visit their webpage at hillside.com.

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