Since her hire in 2014, Beth Anderson, Executive Director of Hill Learning Center (Hill), has devoted both concentrated thought and effort to this question: “What does it look like to be all-in to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion?”
Perhaps because Hill’s mission is focused on students with learning differences, the founding principles of inclusivity and diversity have long been shared by the broader Hill community and are centrally reflected in Hill’s vision statement. Anderson shared: “Our vision statement is deliberate. It states that Hill Learning Center holds a vision in which all students with learning differences and attention challenges receive the instruction and support they need – regardless of where they attend school or whether they have a formal diagnosis. Soon after adopting this vision, the board also made a formal commitment to furthering access. We recognize that we must do work both internally and externally to build access, equity, and inclusion across our people, our practices, and our programs.”
Anderson reflected on the biggest challenge to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and furthering access at Hill, and it may lie in operationalizing the organization’s ethos in a way that is clear and compelling but also reflective of the complexity of the challenge. “To do what we’re trying to do – which is a combination of change management and change leadership, and building equity and building relationships — it’s messy, nonlinear, and sometimes hard to measure.”
So, given the longstanding relationship with Fox Family Foundation, Anderson approached the Foundation in 2022 with a request for three years of general operating support. “We needed flexible dollars for the work yet to do.” The support in part helps Hill develop and refine DEI and access strategies that ultimately ensure its ability to meet all students’ needs. Anderson explained, “In partnership with charter and district public schools, we’re addressing learning achievement gaps among students of color and those growing up in poverty. We’re working to meet students where they are — last year, 1,000 Triangle public school students received our intensive reading intervention in their own school, delivered by either a Hill tutor or a Hill-trained teacher. We’re also reducing barriers to services at Hill for children and their families. As one example, we’ve grown our school financial aid budget 150% over the last five years — last year, a record 51 students received aid and 21 families received awards of $10,000 or more. Ten families attended Hill School for only $550.” To amplify these and other DEI strategies, Hill continues to prioritize increasing diverse representation across board, staff, and educators and structuring compensation to be more competitive and equitable.
“We also recently established a Director of Diversity, Equity & Engagement position. Initially, we didn’t want it to be just one person’s job — as the work must spread naturally across the whole organization. But now we are at a point where we need dedicated capacity to support DEI, engage even more intentionally with the Triangle community, and build synergies both externally and internally.” As an example of this internal synergy, two faculty took it upon themselves to overhaul the library to represent a more diverse and inclusive collection of books and displays.
Anderson concluded, “I think DEI is a journey — there’s no one moment or conversation that makes this happen. But you need big and bold vision. And you need balance between what is structured and what must happen organically.”