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.”

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