TAFT - His mother was an alcoholic and he never knew his dad. But Gregory Hill didn’t let a wrecked family life hold him back. He studied hard. He resisted the temptations of the street. He worked his way through college and landed a job he loves.
A lot of people might have relaxed at that point simply to enjoy the good life and the fruits of their labor. But Hill was just getting warmed up.
First he is starting a not-for-profit organization to help young at-risk African-Americans make something of themselves.
He’s also looking ahead to a run for the U.S. Congress.
It was Jan 8, 1986 and just four days before his 12th birthday when Hill’s mother went into a rehabilitation center to battle her alcoholism.
The news got worse. She told the trembling boy she would no longer be able to take care of her nine children.
In the end, he and five of his siblings were placed into foster care permanently, all in seperate homes.
“We lived with my grandmother at one point, before we were placed into foster care, and times were hard - it seemed like there was just never enough of anything to go around,” says Hill.
“She did her best to stretch what little we had. After she died, my mother’s drinking just got worse,” Hill says.
Hill credits his second set of foster parents, Clara and Nelson James, for providing him with a loving enviroment and teaching him values he desperately needed.
“I was upset; I didn’t understand what was going on. I only got to stay with my first foster family for 10 days, until they could find a stable home for me.
“The things my second foster parents taught me are still with me today,” Hill told the Herald-Guide.
During his middle and high school years Hill became involved in various school activities, despite not being encouraged by other administrators in the school system.
Hill says he was placed in academically “slower” classes based on his family history. It wasn’t until the eighth grade that his Louisiana-history teacher, Sheila DeRousselle, recognized he was “a rose beneath the thorns.”
“They didn’t even realize I was smart,” Hill says. “They looked at my socioeconomic background and just assumed that I wouldn’t amount to anything.”
Hill completed high school and graduated college and credits DeRousselle for encouraging him to complete his education.
“Mrs. DeRousselle became my role model and my mentor,” Hill says. “She was the first person who made me feel like my dreams of college would become a reality. She called me her ’diamond in the rough.’”
Hill says DeRouselle encouraged him to take a career-placement test in eighth grade to help him to determine what his goals should be.
“The test results said that I should become a chemist, a military officer or an attorney,” Hill says.
Hill graduated from Grambling State University with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry. He is now employed as a lab analyst for Dow Chemical Co. in St. Charles Parish. He served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Navy, and is taking his Law School Admissions Test in December in preparation to attend law school.
Hill coaches the little-league football team, the Boutte Hurricanes.
The name of his not-for-profit organization is Men of Community Action - or MOCA.
“If we can get the kids at 5 years old we can instill morals and values. I am tired of losing our 13- and 14-year-old black males to the streets,” says Hill.
“My greatest pleasure in life is doing what someone else says I can’t do.”