How 360-Degree Support Helped Mikayla Redefine Her Future

January 10, 2018

“I wanted to have everything my way.” When Mikayla started high school, she didn’t realize how much her decisions and actions could determine her future. As a freshman at Central High School in Capitol Heights, MD, Mikayla struggled to stay motivated in her classes – leading to failing grades. “At the time, I was only going to school to have fun and didn’t take my education seriously,” she recalled. Mikayla’s father, Thomas McLaughlin, a single parent, recognized that Mikayla needed extra guidance during these formative years and introduced her to Hillside-Work Scholarship Connection. HW-SC’s intervention transformed Mikayla’s attitude and set her on a new path to a brighter future.

When Mikayla first started the program, the top priority was getting her grades up. Mikayla’s Youth Advocate, La-Toya, worked with the school and Mr. McLaughlin to create daily progress reports to make sure that she was completing all of her assignments and getting additional help in the subjects she was struggling with. Mikayla’s father immediately noticed a drastic change. “Her grades transformed in a short period of time,” said Mr. McLaughlin. “She went from getting 30s and 40s to 80s and 90s.” La-Toya not only helped Mikayla identify subjects where she struggled and develop strategies to improve; she also reinforced the importance high-school grades have on getting into college and achieving her goals.

Above and beyond academic support, La-Toya became a mentor to Mikayla, mediating her relationship with her father at a pivotal time in her life. Like many young people her age, Mikayla wanted to wear makeup to school but Mr. McLaughlin was reluctant to give his permission. After Mikayla’s Youth Advocate explained Mikayla’s perspective and how it was a form of expression for young teenage girls, Mikayla’s father came around. “It was a lovely milestone to see Mikayla turn sixteen,” said La-Toya. “At that age, she wanted to go her own way and figure out her own identity whereas her father was very structured with her, and so I worked to be a bridge of communication between the two.” Mr. McLaughlin is grateful to the staff at HW-SC for stepping in to help them find a compromise for this and other situations that arose during Mikayla’s high school years: “I trusted them because Makayla trusted them.”

La-Toya also made sure that Mikayla had the tools that she needed to reach her personal goals for her junior and senior years. Mikayla wanted to go to college, so La-Toya encouraged her through the resources that HW-SC provided, including college tours and helping her to complete college and scholarship applications. Mikayla also got a job at Wegmans Food Markets through HW-SC, which offered her the opportunity to take on more responsibilities and learn workplace skills. Through the ups and downs of high school, La-Toya and other HW-SC staff members provided the 360-degree support Mikayla and her family needed.

Come on, let’s get back on track. Let’s get you where you want to be. Because I’m not only supporting your dreams, I’m supporting your dreams coming to fruition.

As Mikayla’s grades rose, the progress reports were no longer necessary. La-Toya regularly checked in with Mr. McLaughlin, showing him how to keep track of Mikayla’s grades on the school’s website portal for parents and flagging upcoming parent-teacher conferences to ensure that he attended. HW-SC also worked with Mikayla’s teachers to build positive relationships between them and Mikayla, navigating challenges when necessary. Anytime that Mikayla’s grades might start slipping because she didn’t like a teacher or wasn’t interested in the subject, La-Toya and the HW-SC staff were there to motivate her and get her grades right back up. La-Toya explains that she was always there encouraging her, saying “Come on, let’s get back on track. Let’s get you where you want to be. Because I’m not only supporting your dreams, I’m supporting your dreams coming to fruition.”

Today, Mikayla’s dreams of going to college are a reality. She is a freshman at Bowie State University in Maryland. HW-SC helped Mikayla maintain her grades to successfully graduate from Central High School, apply for schools and perform so well at her job that she earned a $6,000 scholarship from Wegmans to help pay for college. Mikayla and her father credit Hillside for helping Mikayla redefine what it means to have everything her way. Now, her way means focusing on her goals and working hard to succeed in college and beyond. Mr. McLaughlin expressed his feelings about the role that HW-SC played in their lives: “I owe – we owe – everything to Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection. In my opinion, they took her from failing to succeeding. Now, when I think about Mikayla’s future, it’s not a hope, it’s not even a dream anymore. It’s an expectation.”

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