Thirty-two Years of Advocacy and Dedication
Melvyn Washington, a school liaison who advocates for the education rights of Hillsides children who attend local public schools, began his career at the agency 32 years ago as a childcare worker. His many duties include setting up teacher conferences and individualized education plans.
He explains his commitment to Hillsides this way: “I’m an overachiever. Everyone always says, ‘if you can save one kid, you’ve done your job.’ Well, I’m going to save as many kids as I can.”
He regards each child as the most important one on the planet, and he expects the same from everyone else when negotiating a child’s educational plan. “I always tell the schools, you treat my kids like Sasha and Malia [President Obama‘s daughters], and we’ll get along just great,” he says.
Washington began his career at Hillsides as childcare workers. He says that working here saved him as a young man because it helped him deal with his childhood issues. “Growing up, therapy was frowned upon,” he said. “But working here, it was on-the-job therapy. I was encouraged to work through my issues and face my feelings.”
For the first time in his life, he got the message that he was valued and able to do anything he set his mind to, a message he has passed on to countless children during his tenure at Hillsides.
Washington loves it when former residents come to visit. “One of the first things they ask is, ‘Is Melvyn still there? Can I talk to him?’” he says. “It’s a great compliment.”
“My goal is always to have the client realize that I helped them grow, even if that comes years later down the road,” he says. “Sometimes the ones you least expect it will call and say, ‘Wow, you really had an impact on me and you did it by example and because you cared.’ That really makes me love what I do.”