An eye for business and a heart for Stanford
by BRIAN KOONZ - NewsTimes
It would’ve been easy for Simone Hill to lose her future before it began, the same way she lost her father, Thomas, a good man who lost an especially swift battle with leukemia.
Hill was barely 14 years old, after all, a freshman at Danbury High School — young enough not to know any better, old enough to make decisions that could keenly affect the rest of her life.
Instead, Simone Hill honored her father the best way she could.
She worked hard on her grades. She read her Bible and she listened to her mother, grandmother and Aunt Clara, the strongest and most important women in her life.
“I knew if my father was still alive, that’s what he would expect of me. He wouldn’t want me to give up,” said Hill, now 23. “He would want me to persevere and go as far as I can in life.” So that’s exactly what she did with the help of the Hord Foundation, a Danbury-based organization that has handed out more than $2.5 million in scholarships since 1993 to local students of African-American descent.
On Friday night, the Hord Foundation will award its next round of scholarships — $200,000 in all — to students from Danbury, Newtown, Bethel, Brookfield, New Fairfield, New Milford, Ridgefield and Redding.
The numbers are nothing short of astounding, but don’t let them blur the mission. The Hord Foundation’s investment in local kids is the real game-changer here, the opportunity to give these kids a brighter future through education.
Hill turned her Hord scholarship into a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Connecticut — with honors — in May 2010.
After working for Pitney Bowes and GE Capital the last two years, Hill will start the next chapter of her life this fall at Stanford University, where she’ll pursue her MBA and a public management certificate.
“I was driving home from Pitney Bowes one night, right after I graduated from UConn, when I heard that I had gotten in,” Hill said. “They called me and I had to pull over. I was screaming in the poor lady’s ear.”
There are plenty of screams left for the Class of 2012, but only for the students with the courage and commitment to study like their lives depend on it.
Because in some cases, they do.
“Too many minority students think their only way out is to become an athlete or a rapper or something like that,” Hill said. “The only real solution is passion — passion for whatever inspires you — and that passion starts at home.
“I believe if we had more parents involved in their children’s education, we wouldn’t have some of the achievement-gap issues that we have now. It’s all value-based and it starts at home.”
It’s no secret Connecticut has one of the nation’s worst student achievement gaps between kids from low-income families and kids from families that are not low-income.
But it doesn’t have to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, Hill tells her younger cousins and the kids at New Hope Baptist Church in Danbury, where she has worshipped for as long as she can remember.
“Your success is not contingent upon anything that has come across your path in the past,” Hill said. “Your success — and how far you want to go — is entirely up to you.
“Everyone needs help, but unless you’re passionate, all the help in the world isn’t going to matter. That’s not to say there aren’t people and things that will come into your path to knock you off your horse,” Hill said. “But getting back on that path and staying on that path is up to you.”
After her father died, her mother, Verline Savage, became her bedrock, just like her grandmother, also named Verlene, but spelled with an “e” in the middle.
The women moved to Newport News, Va., a rough Navy town, to regroup and recover. A year later, Simone Hill was back on Clapboard Ridge to finish her studies at Dan-bury High.
“I moved in with my aunt, Clara Perkins, and I live with her to this day,” Hill said. “She has probably been the most essential person in my life as I’ve grown up. She is one of the main reasons why I continue to give back.”
From the Hord Foundation to the Jericho Partnership — she volunteers at both — Simone Hill has a captive audience to share her story and share her successes.
It’s been nearly a decade since Thomas Hill died too soon from the ravages of leukemia. He probably wouldn’t recognize his daughter these days.
Or maybe he would.
He always knew the kind of woman Simone would grow up to be — smart, caring, determined, poised."
The mission of the Hord Foundation, Inc. is to promote the success, education and enhancement of career opportunities for students of African descent, in the greater Danbury area, providing scholarship and related resources for post secondary education.
The Hord Foundation, Inc is approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501 (C) (3) tax-exempt organization, and all donations
are tax deductible to the extent provided by law. The Hord Foundation Federal Identification Number (EIN) is 06-1359296.