Messages from the President & CEO

Hillside Names Latesha Fussell Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Hillside has announced the appointment of Latesha Fussell as Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I), effective Monday, June 12. In this position, Fussell will lead the coordinated efforts of Hillside’s internal and external DE&I activities, in keeping with the agency’s commitment to create and maintain an inclusive environment where the agency leverages its diversity to build a strong, equitable community.

Fussell comes to Hillside from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, where she has served since 2021 in the role of Director of Diversity and Inclusion. Prior to that experience, she held leadership roles in the areas of intercultural affairs and DE&I at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts; at Wells College in Aurora, New York; and at SUNY Potsdam.

She holds two master’s degrees from SUNY Potsdam, for special education and childhood education, and also earned a bachelor of arts in sociology degree at that school. Fussell is currently pursuing a doctor of philosophy in higher education at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Hillside’s commitment to DE&I takes many forms, including participating in and sponsoring of community-led conferences, forums and events; and bringing visiting speakers to present on a variety of relevant topics that align with organizational priorities. Staff-led regional committees meet monthly to discuss issues of the moment and the agency’s ongoing progress, and substantive recommendations are shared with an executive council that creates and enforces policies related to DE&I.

Other initiatives include Hillside Men of Color and Hillside Women of Color affinity groups, in which staff in the BIPOC community meet regularly to share experiences; and a leadership diversity program that supports the advancement goals of interested BIPOC staff.

“As both one of the region’s largest employers and a deeply committed community partner, Hillside embraces our responsibility in the critical area of DE&I,” said Maria Cristalli, Hillside President & Chief Executive Officer. “Latesha Fussell is an excellent choice for our next Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. With her skills and experience, she will play a vital role in this evolving work that is integral to our mission of service.”

Community support makes Hillside’s mission a reality. You can help build stronger futures for those in need: make a donation to Hillside today.

Families First: Opening Their Hearts and Home to Young People in Need

In honor of National Foster Care Month, here’s a story about an extraordinary foster family provided by Hillside’s Therapeutic Foster Care team.

We would like to share an amazing story of a family whose partnership with Hillside opened many opportunities for children as well as within their own family. Through their care, love and nurturing, many children have been able to call this family their family, and this house their home. We can’t think of a better way to honor Christopher and Alan Girangaya than to share this story of friendship, love and mutual respect.

Most anyone who comes to the Girangayas’ home in Holley, NY, is treated like family. They have been foster/adoptive parents for Hillside for 20 years, including two grown adopted children.

More than 10 years ago, Chris and Alan welcomed into their home a teen mother of one who was expecting another child. With the Girangayas’ support, the mom prepared for independence and grew confident that Chris and Alan would love and care for her children. This led to the adoption of Cadence Alana Girangaya and Mason Christopher Girangaya in 2012.

They were followed by the adoptions of Michael Keahi Girangaya and Elena Kiele Girangaya in 2017. Then, a couple of years later, a non-verbal youth was placed with Chris and Alan who had difficulty expressing his wants and needs. Many interventions were provided for this youth, and ultimately Maxwell Kanani Girangaya was adopted in 2019.

Most recently, when Myles Adriano Girangaya was adopted in 2022, his maternal grandmother joined the celebration and fully supported her grandson’s adoption. There were many hugs and happy tears in the courtroom that day!

Over the years, many other children in need have been welcomed into the Girangayas’ home before eventually returning to their birth families with support from Chris and Alan.

We thank the Girangaya family for sharing their lives with so many young people in need; for allowing children to feel love and supported; and for helping these youth become part of their extended family. They are role models for all of us.

Community support allows Hillside to serve even more children and families. Learn about becoming a foster parent; join our team as a Hillside staff member; or make a donation today to support our mission.

Grad Season Begins with HWSC Senior Celebration in Prince George’s County, MD

Every year, Hillside honors the achievements of soon-to-graduate high schoolers participating in Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection. The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the usual traditions of formal in-person ceremonies, but the Prince George’s County team kicked off the season last week with its first in-person Senior Celebration since 2019 at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland.

The May 10 event hosted 45 seniors and their families from five high schools — cheered on by HWSC staff, leaders and community partners, as well as visiting Hillside leaders from New York.

The evening’s celebration included a brief remembrance of HWSC Regional Director Karene Brodie, who passed away last month.

Other HWSC regions will hold their own Senior Celebrations in the weeks to come. Congratulations to our HWSC Classes of 2023!

Community support keeps Hillside Strong. Support our mission by making a donation today.

DE&I Update – May 2023

On April 11, Hillside staff were proud to attend and actively participate in the 2023 Interrupters’ Conference presented by the Urban League of Rochester. The conference was part of the Urban League’s ongoing INTERRUPT RACISM initiative, which engages organizations and businesses in the fight against racism by meeting them where they are with accessible trainings, and encouraging coaching so their teams may thrive in a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community.

During the conference, a panel of DE&I experts (top photo) led discussions involving cultural humility, a DE&I legal lens perspective, and success stories of advancing DE&I within organizations.

Hillside attendees connected with other participants (bottom photo) to exchange thoughts and ideas; and following the conference, they brought their learnings back to our internal groups to discuss takeaways. We’ll use these learnings to explore new ways to continue our DE&I journey—as a leading regional employer, and as a member of the communities we serve.

Carol Gray Named Finalist in 2023 Technology Woman of the Year Awards

Carol Gray, Hillside’s Director of Technology Solutions, has been named a finalist in the 2023 Technology Woman of the Year awards by TechRochester.

The awards, first introduced in 2000, are designed to recognize, celebrate and make visible the achievements of women in high-technology fields. “These awards are honoring their contributions to the profession, recognizing their support of other women, and being stewards in their community,” the organization stated.

A 33-year Hillside veteran, Gray is responsible for the design and management of Hillside technology solutions including infrastructure, user support, strategic planning, cybersecurity, mobile solutions, web development, enterprise messaging and business continuity.

Under her leadership, Hillside has launched a number of Technology Linked Care (TLC) tools that enhance services for youth and families. These include TeleCare to provide clinical services remotely; fitness trackers to encourage health activities; heart rate variability coaching tools to guide an individual’s breathing as a technique to assist with emotional regulation; and smart-home sensor technology in Hillside’s group homes. (Watch a brief video explaining these TLC tools.)

“As technology plays an ever-increasing role in Hillside’s programs, strong and innovative technology leadership is essential to achieve our goals in partnership with the youth and families we serve,” said Maria Cristalli, Hillside President & CEO. “Carol Gray is an exemplary member of the region’s technology community. She is a champion for the integration of technology and human services, and an invaluable contributor to Hillside’s mission.”

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