August graduation 2

At Hillcrest Hope, we love celebrating graduations with our families. It's a special occasion, but requires a lot of planning and preparation so graduates can truly thrive after Hillcrest Hope.

Really, preparation for graduation starts the first day the families arrive," says Sara Stuart, Case Manager at the Avondale Hillcrest Hope apartments. "Everything we do is with the goal of our families becoming independent at the end."

For Hillcrest Hope families, the focus is on setting goals and meeting those milestones. First, says Faith Weber, Case Manager, it's all about finding good, steady employment. The next goals include paying off debt and saving, and building to decisions about where to live. Smaller goals lead up to bigger goals, and we're talking through the pros and cons together to create the best scenario for the family going forward.

Every step of the way, families are encouraged to take a long-term perspective. For these families, looking farther down the road is a big part of their learning process. We're really thinking through what kind of example they want to set for their children and what they want their future to look like," Sara explains.

The financial preparation starts with creating a comprehensive financial plan. We look at the development of a move-out budget and create a comprehensive plan for what the family would need to budget for expenses," Sara says.

Next, the search for housing begins. Once they've found a few places to consider, the team helps the family determine what neighborhood would be the right fit. And after the right place is found, it's all about making that house into a home. With their hard-won financial stability, they can't go out and spend thousands of dollars to outfit an apartment," Sara explains.

That's where the Thrift Store comes into play. When we talk about a move-out budget and what the needs are for their place, the Thrift Store is a real blessing. Families can shop for bedding, furniture, kitchen supplies and the other things they need to set up their own home," Faith explains.

Graduation ceremonies themselves are both reverent and festive. We all get together to celebrate what the family has done and their time here. Everyone's story is different, and the goal is to be personal for that family." Faith enjoys finding specific uplifting quotes that are specific to the family, quotes that speak to who they are and what they have accomplished.

Those at the graduations include Hillcrest Hope team members, apartment sponsors, budget counselors and, for some graduates, extended family. And other families currently in the program attend as well. Not only do they learn from those who have achieved their goal, but they also gain encouragement as they remember that it's attainable and get renewed hope for their own journey.

The ceremony itself is designed based on what's most important to the family. Sara remembers one young man who wanted encouragement the most, specifically asking for a cross and verse of encouragement to hang on the wall in his new place. For other families, we celebrate progress and how far they've come.

"It's a little bit of a highlight reel," Sara says. "We love to mark the growth we've seen. The ultimate goal is to bless them as we send them on their way," Sara smiles.