Local Hero: Millicent "Mama" Hill

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"It's a matter of reading between the lines...See what the real truth is about the world. If you like yourself, you won't want to hurt anyone else."

After retiring from her 40-year profession as an LAUSD school teacher, Millicent "Mama" Hill continued to educate and empower the at-risk children who needed the most guidance in her community. Her affable demeanor and talent for teaching, right from her living room, have made her home a place of solace and peace in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

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Ms. Hill taught in many different capacities during her educational career: she was an English teacher, a counselor, and a mentor to many students. She was the driving force in creating and popularizing a special museum dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. at Crenshaw High School. She prided herself on making her students responsible in the classroom as well as in life; by giving her most troublesome students the most responsibility, she taught empathy and respect to students who had never known those concepts before, and they began to respect her back.

Despite her own success with troubled students, Ms. Hill could not ignore the harsh realities of the gang violence and social deprivation that still infiltrated her teaching. During one moment of reflection, she estimated that she had lost over 2,000 students to violent death in her teaching career. Even after she retired from teaching, she dedicated her life to mitigating the heartache and pain in her community through love and compassion, right from her own home.

In 2001, realizing that so many youths and their parents had no realistic venues to address the most distressing social and psychological problems plaguing their community, Mama Hill opened up her own home and started an after-school program. She provided one-on-one sessions with troubled students and parents, addressing every problem from gang violence to grief counseling to suicide prevention. One-on-one sessions grew into group sessions, and the people that Mama Hill counseled began to rely upon her as a cornerstone of personal improvement and well-being. She now estimates that, as of the time that she began "Mama Hill's Help," that she has saved as many students as she had lost during her years of teaching.

Mama Hill plans to continue her outreach and leadership programs as she has for the past several years, focusing especially on gang prevention and intervention as well as voter registration outreach in the community. She will continue to lead her new, weekly seminar on Black History/Brown History/Life Skills every Tuesday in the following year.

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Local Hero: Billy Mitchell