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The next president at Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection has a good idea of where the organization is headed.
Augustin Melendez, who becomes president at HWSC on March 11, has been on the non-profit's board as it grew beyond Rochester in its mission of working with high school students to achieve success before and after graduation.
With connections to the corporate world and the Rochester City School District, Melendez is a perfect fit to lead the organization as it continues to grow, said Dennis Richardson, president and CEO of the Hillside Family of Agencies.
"Augie brings a unique set of values and experiences to Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection that will propel this national model to even greater success and prominence," Richardson said. "His highly successful career in the for-profit sector, coupled with his experience with and passion for Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, make Augie the ideal leader we have been searching for."
HWSC is a youth development program that helps students stay in school and on the path toward graduation. The program offers support in academics and other areas to give the students the skills they will need to succeed in life after they graduate, officials said.
The program has grown to serve more than 4,000 middle school and high school students in Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Prince George's County, Md.
Its last president, Patricia Malgieri, left in 2012 to join the Rochester City School District. Malgieri had joined HWSC in 2010, leaving her post as Rochester deputy mayor.
Melendez served on HWSC's board for six years. He joins the agency after 13 years at Eastman Kodak Co., where he served as director of human resources as well as chief diversity and community affairs officer.
Before joining Kodak, Melendez worked as director of human resources at Paychex Inc. and director of human resources and deputy superintendent of operations for the Rochester City School District.
The organization will continue to expand the number of students it serves, Richardson said.
"He's been involved with Hillside until recently, just resigning from the board in January, and his commitment and concern for young people and their families is really important," Richardson said. "He's so well-respected in this community, whether from his volunteer work or from other endeavors."
Growing up in public schools in New York City and then moving on to work in the Rochester district gave Melendez an understanding of the issues facing urban school districts.
"I understand the issues that Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Prince George's County are experiencing," Melendez said.
Melendez added he is excited for the chance to expand HWSC. These opportunities to expand became immediately evident after he was named president, he said.
"I've talked to people I know all over the county since being named as president, and all of them after reading about Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection say they think it would be great in their community," he said. "Our future will definitely give us the ability to grow even more, and I'm thrilled to be part of that."
Hillside already has plans to grow. The agency is exploring two new locations in New York and should be operating in them by the end of 2014, Richardson said.
The agency has received increased attention from the foundation and philanthropic communities, Richardson said. It received two grants from the Philip L. Graham Fund and the Herb Block Foundation to expand its operation in Maryland, and it has received continued support from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.
Even with the support, HWSC faces challenges in a difficult economy, Richardson said. Government funding has been slashed, leaving school districts with fewer resources.
"We think Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection is a good choice, but we're still faced with school districts making tough decisions," Richardson said. "We think our success will make them want to invest in us, because we know what works and what can be successful."
HWSC is effective because it can offer specialized support for students, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, he added.
"In some respects it's like an antibiotic, and you've got to make sure you're using the right antibiotic for the right matter," he said. "We can target our program effectively to raise graduation rates and prepare young people to succeed in their choice of careers or going to college."
For that program to be successful, HWSC needs to continue to grow its partnerships, Melendez said. The agency pairs students with businesses where they learn work skills, and it receives corporate support for various other programs.
Melendez said his background in the corporate world can help make more of those connections.
"We need partnerships to succeed," he said. "One of the key components of Hillside is a mentoring program where we pair young people with people who can support them, give academic support and jobs.
"We need the community to step up with real jobs so these kids can understand work and benefit from those opportunities. I plan to seek out more of those opportunities."
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