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.”