As he entered high school, Casanova Burgos had heard good things about participating in the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection program. He knew he would benefit from HWSC’s academic supports, and he was interested in the employment-skills training and placement that could help him find a part-time job while still working toward his diploma.

The decision to work with HWSC, he says, ultimately made a vital difference when he was devastated by multiple personal traumas: In the space of two years while still in high school, he was stabbed by a family member; his older cousin was murdered; and his biological father was killed before his eyes.

Those cascading events “led me to believe that there was little hope of a future for me,” he recalls, as he had difficulty maintaining focus or enthusiasm for his studies and career plans. “My life went from worse to far worse, but the support I received from Hillside made such a difference when it felt like nothing else would.”

His HWSC Youth Advocates and other program staff helped him regain his focus and resume the progress that led to him earning his high school diploma in 2009. “That was one of the biggest achievements of my life,” he says.

Since then Burgos, now 33, has accomplished much—and has much more to look forward to. He began studying at Monroe Community College, then joined the U.S. Navy Reserve for missions that took him to South Korea, Dubai and Spain. Returning to the U.S., he maintained his Navy commitment while working toward his college degree and holding down a job with a local manufacturer. Today, he’s in the final stages of approval for a position with the Rochester Fire Department—and he and his partner, Schvaughtne Speed, couldn’t be prouder of their 9-year-old son, Ethan Cobb.

He knows his successes are his own, but he still recognizes Hillside’s role in making them a reality. “I am a witness and testament to what Hillside’s support can do to help young folks in need,” Burgos says. “If not for Hillside, my life would have surely taken another path.”

Community support allows HWSC and other Hillside programs to reach more youth and families, and change more lives for the better. Donate to Hillside today.

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