With the success of the recent $12 million capital campaign, Hillsides much beloved Pasadena campus is set to undergo a major makeover.

BY: Sara Smola

Screenshot Hillsides Art Room 130819

For over 100 years, Hillsides has played a pivotal role in providing hope and healing to thousands of children and their families in the Pasadena and greater Los Angeles area. This proposed development is a wonderful opportunity to better engage the community for both education and youth mental health services. “This is a very exciting time for our organization and a transformative time for how foster care services are delivered,” says Hillsides CEO Joseph Costa of the development project that will benefit at-risk children in the community.

For the last few years, Hillsides has been engaged in their capital campaign with the goal of raising $12 million to erect a new multipurpose student activity center.  The proposed development has already received approval of the master plan from the city of Pasadena and is slated to begin construction in July of 2016. The total construction period is estimated at about 24 months, with the outdoor facilities set to be completed, including the pool, within the first nine months. Hillsides will also get a new dining facility (replacing the 95 year old dining hall and food prep area) as well as a gymnasium, rec room, music studio, art studio and an outdoor play area with a new pool, basketball court, swing set and other recreational amenities that, according to Costa, will create a hub for the residents of Hillsides.

While the amenities such as art and music studios sound “fun” on the surface (and the programs will undoubtedly provide countless hours of enjoyment and artistic education), Hillsides has a deeper goal in mind: to provide the children with a healthy outlet to express their feelings in a way they may not be able to articulate verbally.

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“Our task is to [unify] these children with their families—if not with their parents, with their families,” Costa explains. “One of the things we do is make sure that there is a kind of facility and a kind of therapeutic approach that would help us to be even more effective. So, when you take into consideration music and art as important expressive therapeutic services that go hand in hand with the individual counseling. The great thing about it is kids can hear music, make music, play with music without a lot of instruction so it gives the therapists an immediate way to see what these kids probably wouldn’t be able to express in words.”

The therapy programs can also serve as a way to bring about a sense of normalcy for children whose lives may have suddenly become unfamiliar. It also gives the residents and students a chance to build self-esteem, as well as a chance to develop positive relationships with others in a relaxed, pleasurable environment. “For a lot of our kids, the recreational environment is a place for them to shine, being able to play ball, get in the pool. We don’t want to underestimate how important it is to be able to be in an environment that is nurturing. It’s not just a matter about replacing an old facility.” Costa emphasizes, “It’s more about making sure that the therapeutic value of these actives that will be supported by this new building are well equipped. Anything that we can do to create a more normal, typical experience for these kids while they’re away from their families is of real value.”


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