Hilltop was built in 2018 and is set back from the school and the rest of the main campus, overlooking the river valley and hills beyond. The view from the top is breathtaking. Currently, nine residential students live in the home whose ages vary, with the youngest being eight-years-old. The students who make Hilltop their home-away-from-home attend classes at The School at Springbrook during the day and work with direct support professionals on everything from behavioral plans, to social skills, to everyday life skills. There is never a dull moment in the day in the life of the students and staff of Hilltop house!

Edward (top) and Sebastian relax at Hilltop after a day of school.
Joshua May, Assistant Manager of Hilltop, chats with a resident.


Students are up and out of bed at 7 am each morning to get to school by the 9 am bell. At school, students enjoy classes and work on academic and life skills with their teachers, teaching aids, therapists, and fellow students.


With one hour to go before school is out, the house is relatively quiet, aside from a small hum generated by DSPs as they prepare snacks and finish up afternoon tasks. While the kids attend school, it allows a small window for DSPs to focus on their work in the home, including some housekeeping, such as cleaning rooms and doing laundry, and readying after-school activities. When the kids arrive home, there is a sudden flurry of activity. While some make their way in casually, others make a grand entrance; one boy in particular enters with a great exclamation of joy, spreads his arms out, and sprints to his room. The elation for many of them seems clear: they’re happy to be home. Whatever way they make their entrance, nearly every student

“The DSPs of Hilltop are always willing to help each other out. The leadership duo of DSPs Josh May and Matt Brady set model examples for the rest of the team.”

Bobbie Martindale

Assistant Residential Program Director

makes a b-line for their room to shed their backpack and get back to the kitchen for snack time! “While no two days are the same, every day is packed with something interesting, making the possibilities endless,” says Assistant Program Director Bobbie Martindale.

While the DSPs at Hilltop agree that a career in their field isn’t always easy, there is a great reward in having the opportunity to mentor students in acquiring new skills and achieving personal goals. While staffing shortages have made it difficult to provide the type of one-on-one activities that students and DSPs prefer, many of the students of Hilltop house have excelled this past year thanks to the encouragement and dedication of the core DSPs of the house.

Matt Brady, a DSP at Hilltop, has worked in many of the on-campus residences, but found himself returning to Hilltop with greater joy for the work each day: “Seeing the kids progress keeps me coming back.” It takes skill and creativity to work with students in a residential setting, but seeing their behavior and social skills improve is a triumph for all to celebrate.


Once snacks have been consumed with gusto and cleaned up, DSP Caroline Natoli announces that today, September 14th, 2021, is National Coloring Day. Most of the students at Hilltop enjoy coloring and are given options of coloring books and pages with a variety of crayons and markers to use. A few of the kids sit around a large dining table in the center of the house to enjoy a relaxing afternoon of coloring, while others play games in the living room or hang out in their room. Over the course of the afternoon, the kids actively enjoy doing what kids do, from playing board games and blowing bubbles, to reading and watching television. For Caroline, it’s important that students have the opportunity to be kids, because what they really want to do is have fun. It’s up to the DSPs to strike a balance between skill acquisition and fun while at home. Having more staff would mean that activities could be individualized to the kids of the house; it would also mean more out-of-door activities, including day trips or afternoon outings. And more fun for everyone!

The continuity that the core DSPs of Hilltop House have been able to provide for the students with whom they work has been key to the students’ development and continued success. With more staff at the house, current DSPs hope to engage the kids more frequently and offer them more to do after their school day. Despite the staffing shortage, current staff remain encouraged in their work, which DSP Ellie Archibald summed with this statement: “Working with the kids and seeing them progress, so that when they leave here they can do everything, [makes it all worthwhile].”

By Dez

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