Only a few years ago, Jovannie Canales and Melisa Rivera felt overwhelmed with concern for their son. Today, he’s on a better path—and his parents were so inspired by the support he received that they’re bringing that support to other families in need, every day.

It started when their son, 15 at the time, was experiencing real challenges including aggression and suicidal ideation. Jovannie and Melisa weren’t sure how to help.

“It felt like we were walking on eggshells,” Jovannie says of the struggles their son faced, as well as the whole family. “We knew he needed help, and wanted help. But we didn’t know what to do.”

Every parent only wants the best for their child, and Melisa will never forget the day a Hillside Family Peer Advocate came to their home, and listened. “She told us about how Hillside could help our family and our child,” Melisa remembers. “She was understanding and supportive of us, from day one. She gave us hope.”

A carefully coordinated array of services were introduced that offered support to Jovannie and Melisa’s son, as well as the entire family. “It took time, but he started doing better,” Jovannie recalls. “His anger decreased, and we started seeing the light at the end of the end of the tunnel.”

“He started smiling again,” Melisa adds. “The whole family received support that we really needed.”

The couple were so inspired by their positive experience with Hillside, they decided to join the agency as Family Peer Advocates themselves. After completing their training, they joined the Hillside family to provide other parents and children with the kind of positive support they received.

“It’s a true blessing to be part of Hillside,” Jovannie says. “We want to help other families who are in need. We can share our experiences with them, because we understand what they are feeling.”

Melisa nods. “We want them to know that there’s hope, and they are not alone.”

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