Valder Ludgood is the first to say she did not have a stellar freshman year of high school.
The Greece Arcadia student faced academic and social challenges throughout the year, which marks a transition from middle school to high school.
“It was a struggle,” said Ludgood, who goes by Val.
Her fortunes changed as a sophomore when Ludgood applied for the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection Program, which she learned about through friends. She was accepted into the program and never looked back.
The program provided Ludgood with tutoring services for classes and test preparation for regents’ exams, as well as SAT and ACT exams.
The agency’s program also gave Ludgood experiences she believes she would not have had otherwise. They included her first trip to Niagara Falls and tours of colleges located out of state.
“It’s been a great experience,” Ludgood said.
Now a senior in high school, she plans to attend SUNY College at Morrisville in the fall to study humanities and sociology.
Ludgood is not sure of her career plans yet, but she is inspired by those at Hillside that have helped her get to where she is today.
Her Hillside advocates are extended family, she said, who care about Ludgood and her future.
“I honestly don’t know if I would be graduating this year if it weren’t for Hillside,” Ludgood said.
Luis Roche became involved with Hillside during his sophomore year of high school.
The Hillside office was on-site at Roche’s high school. Having it located there helped him gain more knowledge about the program and its benefits.
“It made me want to be a part of it,” Roche said.
Hillside has helped Roche achieve his academic goals, he said.
It was accomplished by keeping him on-track with school and holding after-school tutoring in subjects that challenged Roche. Hillside also provided guidance when he was applying to various colleges.
Roche graduated from Rochester Early College International High School in 2015 and is a junior at SUNY College at Brockport where he is studying business administration.
During the summer months, Roche works as a store operations intern for Wegmans Food Markets Inc. He hopes to continue his career at Wegmans after college graduation and, after that, go into a field where he can continue to get the most out of his degree. He also is considering working toward an MBA.
Roche does not know where he would be without the help from Hillside.
“Hillside gave me the connections I needed to achieve my goals,” Roche said. “Without the program, I would be still working toward goals that I have already achieved and replaced.”
Santos Montalvo knew he wanted to be the first person in his family to graduate from high school. The Hillside program helped him achieve that goal.
Montalvo became involved with the program while attending Northeast College Preparatory High School at the Douglass campus. A family friend was a Hillside advocate and suggested the program to him.
Like Ludgood and Roche, Montalvo took advantage of the after-school tutoring provided by Hillside. He also took part in a college tour throughout the Northeast.
After graduation from Northeast Prep in 2010, Montalvo was accepted at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he graduated last year with a bachelor of science degree in packaging science. He works at American Packaging Corp.
Montalvo believes the Hillside program helped prepare him for life after school.
The tutoring sessions, for example, helped him when he was struggling with a class, and his academics paved the way for a scholarship to help pay for his tuition at RIT.
And the general support he received from his advocates and others affiliated with the program inspired Montalvo to help others and serve as a role model for his younger siblings.
“It was a good opportunity,” he said.
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