On New Year’s Day, Hillsides, the premier provider of high quality care, advocacy and innovative services to create lasting change for children, youth, and families, will celebrate its centennial anniversary at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. This historic milestone for Hillsides is being recognized by Wells Fargo and has invited a group of Hillsides children and youth to ride in the iconic Wells Fargo stagecoach during the parade. Hillsides has chosen Jordan Romero, 14, Trayveon Hollins, 18, Esperanza Mejia, 19, and her son, Jacob, 2, who have made significant strides in improving their overall well-being and have thrived in safe, permanent environments.
Jordan Romero is a remarkable 14-year-old young girl with the spirit of a giver and the spunk of an athlete. Jordan first enrolled at Hillsides Education Center as a second grader, and two years ago became a resident in our Residential Treatment Services program. Now in ninth grade, she leads in the school as the student council secretary and plays an integral role in the classroom for the other students. An avid softball player and golfer, Jordan plays hard. In the home, she plays another extension of her leadership role. Jordan has faced many things she wouldn’t in the past venture to do. Her interpersonal challenges have slowly been overcome by taking healthy risks, helping to boost her own self-esteem and confidence. Whether it’s at school, on the field or in her home, Jordan is determined to give of herself and become a leader as she foresees owning and running an animal rescue shelter.
Trayveon Hollins is determined to become a leader for others. While growing up in a chaotic and verbally abusive home, Trayveon spent much time on the streets until one day he was face-to-face with a juvenile court judge. While in juvenile court, he expressed his concern about returning home and was placed in a youth home that could offer him stability. When he approached emancipation age, he found himself searching for another stable residence--one that would build on what he had learned. Since his residence at Youth Moving On, Hollins has learned to be independent, speak up, and budget his money. Determined to succeed and become fully self-sufficient, Hollins works at two jobs: a coffee shop and a sports apparel manufacturing company. He is planning to attend Pasadena City College and enroll in a construction program. His goal is to move into permanent housing and become a leader for the other youth that participate in YMO. The structure that he receives at YMO is helping him build a strong foundation for independence—something he could only dream about as a young child.
Esperanza Mejia found herself pregnant at 16 and in a turbulent relationship with her unborn child’s father. When she gave birth to Jacob she knew she needed help, but still couldn’t come around to accepting it. Staff at Hillsides Family Resource Centers approached her several times trying to intervene, but Mejia still wasn’t ready. Until one day, she realized the unhealthy relationship she was in was not the kind of environment in which she wanted to raise her son. Behind in class credits, Mejia had to catch up quickly to graduate from high school. While many people never thought she’d graduate, she credits Hillsides for the support she received during this time. From helping her get full custody of her son to driving her to appointments, staff worked with Esperanza to help meet her goal of graduating high school. As a single mother, she struggled through Jacob’s infancy. He had unusual tantrums, constantly cried, and couldn’t have restful sleep. Mejia knew something was wrong so asked Hillsides staff to help her with Jacob. She was going to therapy for herself and was in therapy with her son. Mejia was able to meet and manage her needs, better enabling her to meet the complex needs required to soothe Jacob. Exhausted from sleepless nights with Jacob, Esperanza still woke up early to attend high school during the day, participated in an afterschool program, and enrolled in adult school to earn enough credits to graduate. On days when she was depressed and didn’t believe she could make it, Hillsides staff encouraged Esperanza, believed in her and gave her the confidence she needed. On her graduation day, she learned that she had made the principal’s honor roll. Determined to get ahead, Mejia enrolled in UEI College with scholarships she was awarded and completed a medical assistant program. Now at 19, Mejia is working full-time as a medical assistant and is planning to attend Pasadena City College as a stepping-stone to earn her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. Mejia hopes to work with teenagers at risk who deal with gang violence, drug abuse, and domestic violence. Unbeknownst to her, the birth of her son was the end of unhealthy risks and the beginning of a hopeful future. Mejia truly embodies the meaning of her Spanish name—hope.
Romero, Hollins, and Mejia will be joined by Hillsides CEO Joe Costa, whose leadership has refined the work of what was already the top-notch foster care support system in the region. Costa’s mission, from the very start, was to preserve families and promote safe, permanent environments where young people can thrive.
“I am honored to provide leadership to an organization who continues to provide high quality care, innovative services, and advocacy,” says Costa. “I am even more proud to ride with these children and youth who have struggled and overcome traumatic obstacles. Their lives are a testament of how one can restore hope and rebuild a life.”
Hillsides is fortunate to look toward another 100 years with support from corporations like Wells Fargo that has partnered to be a sponsor of the organization’s centennial celebration.