Messages from the President & CEO

Pride Month & Juneteenth: Let’s All Get Involved

At Hillside, we know that creating and maintaining a diverse, equitable and inclusive community is a year-round commitment. There’s no shortage of opportunities to get involved—especially this time of year!

Every June, National Pride Month shows support and solidarity for the LGBTQ+ community. No matter what community you call home, you’ll find a Pride event: parades have already been held in Buffalo and Utica, and more events are coming this month to Binghamton, Jamestown, the Southern Tier, Syracuse, and Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Rochester has a tradition of holding a Pride Parade in July—our team is pictured below at the 2023 parade—and Hillside will once again march in that event on July 20. Join us!

Meanwhile, the national holiday of Juneteenth commemorates the symbolic anniversary of the end of slavery on June 19, 1865. Within Hillside, our Regional DE&I Committees organized a virtual event for all interested employees with a visiting speaker who will explore the legacy of that historic date.

In the communities we serve, events have been announced in Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo, and there’s sure to be a live or online Juneteenth celebration near you.

On behalf of all of Hillside, I encourage you to engage in your local Juneteenth and Pride Month celebrations. These events aren’t reserved for specific segments of our community—they’re an important way of bringing everyone together to salute and support our neighbors, our loved ones, and ourselves.

Thank you!

Maria Cristalli
President & CEO


Our Schools Make a Difference—and So Can You

Of the many aspects of Hillside’s work, I’m always particularly excited to discuss our schools!

Hillside operates five 853 schools, certified by the New York State Office of Special Education to provide the state-approved curriculum to students in our residential and day treatment programs. These schools are located on our four residential campuses in Rochester, Auburn, and Bath; and at the Halpern Education Center in Webster, NY.

It’s truly commendable how Hillside educators bring their passion and dedication to every student.  Education is a powerful tool that can transform lives, Teachers and Teaching Assistants play a vital role in guiding students through their emotional and behavioral challenges while fostering a love for learning. Their commitment is invaluable in creating supportive and enriching learning environments for all students.

Hillside Teachers and TAs work closely with clinical staff to ensure that lesson plans are delivered in the context of each child’s therapeutic needs as well as the Individualized Education Programs that are established to set the students’ academic goals. It’s vital and deeply rewarding work, that’s embraced by our world-class Education teams who are as committed to their profession as they are to Hillside’s mission.

If you’re a Teacher or Teaching Assistant who’s exploring new employment opportunities, I encourage you to consider Hillside! Our teams were recently asked what they value most about working here, and their answers included the following:

  • Small class sizes,” with 6:1:2 or 8:1:2 ratios (Students to Teachers to Teaching Assistants) in every classroom
  • Fantastic starting compensation compared to public districts”
  • More support in the classroom from TAs, supervisors, and management”
  • “Teachers and TAs have their own dedicated laptops, and every classroom has a Smartboard”
  • Greater opportunities for flexibility in planning and instruction”

Teaching is so vital to every community—and the Hillside community is no exception. For more information about openings in our Hillside schools, visit our Careers page today. And thank you as always for your support of Hillside!

Maria Cristalli
President & CEO

The Power of Prevention

At Hillside, we see examples every day of the many ways in which such factors as trauma and poverty can hold back young people and adults from achieving their potential. Our services provide supports and guidance that can make a powerful difference—but we all know that the surest way to solve any problem is by detecting and addressing it early.

That’s why preventive services are a critical part of our integrated continuum of care. One example of our commitment to preventive support is the new Family Opportunity Center model that we’ve recently launched in Syracuse and Rochester.

These Centers, funded by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, offer walk-in supports for expectant parents and families with children under age 21. Maybe they’re looking for parent development tips, or nutrition counseling, or information about how to access vital mental health care services. Our Family Opportunity Centers provide these supports, and more—and in so doing, help reduce the risk of an unaddressed issue becoming much worse down the line.

In addition to on-site clinical guidance, the Centers are staffed by Family Peer Advocates who have lived experience in the same day-to-day challenges experienced by many parents who walk in seeking help. That shared experience allows our staff to form trusted relationships with moms, dads and young people in need.

Hillside’s latest podcast explores the new Family Opportunity Center program. Please give it a listen, and if this kind of service sounds like it could be helpful to you, I hope you’ll reach out to Hillside at 585-256-7500 and ask for more information. Our Service Integration team is available 24 hours a day to answer your questions.

As always, I thank you for your interest in Hillside’s mission!

Maria Cristalli
President & CEO

Community Support Keeps #HillsideStrong!

On December 12, Hillside invited state and local officials to join us at our Crestwood Campus to hear more about our programs, priorities and plans for the future. We try to hold meetings like this several times each year, as part of our ongoing engagement with government and community leaders; they understand the role played by Hillside’s services in our community, and their awareness and support is critical to the success of our work.

It’s impossible to consider the effectiveness of Hillside’s services without taking into account our funding streams. Because the rates for many of Hillside programs are set by our state partners, we must be a thoughtful, passionate advocate for the support that ultimately helps our employees do their best work for those we serve.

And funding isn’t the only issue. In an op-ed piece published on the New York Non-Profit Media website, I shared some thoughts about the vital need for structural reforms in our field. The most recent New York State budget showed promise in its increased financial support for many of our services, but that support is only the beginning of the changes needed to allow our programs to fulfill their objectives and let youth, adults and families thrive.

The individuals we serve deserve the full support of our funders and elected officials—as do our employees, in the form of rates for our services that allow staff to be compensated fairly. We continue to do all we can to support higher employee compensation, and with appropriate funding increases, we can do even more.

In the meantime, please don’t forget that your support makes an incredible difference! Whether as a donor, a foster parent or a Hillside employee, you can play an important role in helping us help others.

Thank you for your support of Hillside’s mission!

Maria Cristalli
President & CEO

Special Santa: Your Gift Makes All the Difference

Happy Holidays! We’re heading into a time of year that holds special meaning for many cultures and families in the communities we all call home. No matter how you observe the season, it’s a natural time for thinking of others—and it’s in that spirit that Hillside’s Special Santa program was created.

Now in its fourth decade, Special Santa is a remarkable act of not only charity, but community: across all the regions we serve, our employees join with families served by Hillside and with thousands of individuals like you to make the holidays a little bit brighter for children in need.

I recently sat down for Hillside’s monthly podcast to discuss Special Santa with a member of our staff who’s participated in the program for 35 years. She shared a heartwarming story of a young girl of color who commented that she’d never owned a doll that looked like her—and when she received that doll through Special Santa, she was ecstatic, carrying it everywhere she went.

A simple act of generosity meant so much to that young girl—and your generosity can do the same this season! I hope you’ll join us in contributing in any way you can to Special Santa 2023. Please visit our online Special Santa page to learn more about the many ways you can make an extraordinary difference in the lives of the youth, adults and families we serve.

Thank you for your support!

Maria Cristalli
President & CEO

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