Work-Scholarship Connection Curriculum

 Hillside Family of Agencies

"An amazing, well thought out and comprehensive program with multiple strategies,” and “a nice blend of learning opportunities provided with effective reinforcements to ensure sustainability of new knowledge and behaviors learned."

-CNY ATD BEST judges' remarks


Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection (HW-SC) is a youth development program that helps youth living in poverty stay in school, graduate from high school, and progress to post-secondary education and/or employment. HW-SC serves students in Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, Rome, Washington DC, and Prince Georges County MD. HW-SC is continually improving its processes in an effort to maximize grade promotion and graduation rates. Based on internal analysis and the results of an outside evaluation, HW-SC decided to revise their core service model.

HW-SC partnered with Gillespie Associates to design and develop training for existing youth advocates, supervisors, managers and new hires on the new Core Services Model 2.0. The desired outcomes for these revisions and proposed training program were:

  • Increase on-time graduation rates and grade promotion by clearly defining and tracking key student performance metrics identified to drive graduation rates. The training needed to provide consistent use of language, processes, and policies across regions and support execution with accuracy and fidelity.
  • Support success in an upcoming study to evaluate the effectiveness of HW-SC’s Core Services Model 2.0 by using data to ensure the model is being used with fidelity. A successful study would mean more opportunity to replicate this program in other regions.
  • Enable the program to successfully replicate to other regions by providing consistent and thorough training in addition to consistent new-hire training in existing regions.

In addition to the overall scope of the project, there were a number of specific issues that Gillespie needed to address:

  • Supervisor Engagement. We knew if supervisors were not onboard with the Core Services Model 2.0 rollout and training, the ongoing use of the new processes would be minimal. Strong involvement and communication helped to get supervisors involved with training development and see the benefits of the material first-hand.
  • Limited Budget. Although there was a sizeable grant used to fund this training, the scope of the training was also significant. To address budgetary limitations, the bulk of the self-directed learning used a printed workbook, reserving e-learning for topics that specifically lent themselves to this format, like ETO software simulations and branching scenarios.
  • Consistent Processes. Many executive-level decisions that needed to be made in a short time period to ensure consistent processes and policies were being taught. Having a senior-level sponsor as the main contact allowed these discussions and decisions to happen quickly and be incorporated into the training.


A successful outcome meant existing youth advocates were consistently using the new language, processes, and policies across regions, and supporting execution with accuracy and fidelity. All indicators show that youth advocates have been implementing the model, identifying errors, and working with supervisors to change behaviors. Initially used at a region startup for over 200 employees in March 2016, this training has been incorporated into new-hire onboarding for all youth advocates.

The Level 4 evaluation for this training measures whether student grade promotion and graduation rates increase, based on changes in youth advocate behaviors.  The full impact of the changes is anticipated with the cohort of students who started 9th grade in 2015.

Gillespie’s curriculum resulted in the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection being awarded the 2016 CNY BEST Learning and Performance Not for Profit Organization award.

How We Did It

Our approach consisted of four major phases:

  • Needs assessment: A structured process consisting of stakeholder interviews, action mapping, and prioritization of skill gaps to recommend a robust training solution

  • Design and development: Involvement and input of executive, supervisory, and YA-level expertise to lend accuracy and credibility to the curriculum

  • Rollout: Across six initial regions;  incorporation into onboarding training for all new hires; used to initial train in the most recently added region

  • Evaluation: Monthly and quarterly analysis with adjustments to process and related training as needed; continued monitoring of graduation rates


Specific deliverables included the following:

  •  Self-directed learning to impart key information and free up valuable classroom time, consisting of:
  •  A workbook containing subject content and written exercises
  • Videos
  • e-Learning modules for skill practice
  • Team huddles to debrief exercises and scenarios with their peers
  • Two-day classroom training to discuss strategies and practice skills
  •  Performance support during training and in the field

How We Can Help You

Are you ready to find out how Gillespie Associates can help your employees and team members reach and exceed your goals?
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