Hillside Chronicle staff writers pen “Letters to Durham”

Hillside Chronicle staff writer Daniel Gwyn reads his "Dear Durham" letter aloud to the Hillside Chronicle staff as UNC-CH mentor McKenna Lea (left) and Chronicle staffer Kala Sampson look on. (Staff photo by Jock Lauterer)

Editor’s Note:  Following a recent incident near their high school, the Hillside Chronicle staffers of Hillside High School received some negative comments via social media about their school. Anonymous, of course. In response, the staff elected to write “Dear Durham” letters, aided by UNC-CH students from the Durham VOICE mentoring team which has worked with the Hillside Chronicle staff to help revive their historic newspaper. Here are their thoughts.


Cyrum Lewis


Letter to Durham,

As students of Hillside High School we are concerned with the perception of Durham as a violent and unsafe community. There is so many great things about Hillside High School. It has a very diverse environment that allows students to be themselves. We may not like Hillside’s lunches and have trouble with transportation, but we are always working to build a better community. Our school has great-after school programs, college prep with counsellors and many arts programs, that include the theatre and JROTC. Hillside may not be a perfect place, but nowhere can be perfect. Durham is so unique and has a powerful effect on students here and the rest of our neighborhoods. Even as students, we can see the amount of people in need here. We need to make sure everyone, including our teenage mothers, have access to healthcare. Security and police officers need to make sure they’re working to serve and protect the whole community.


Kala Sampson


Chronicle Co-Editor Eleijah Gibbs.


Love Letter to Durham

I love you because you never bore me, and you’re full of energy. You keep me very busy with things such as, your thriving arts and DPAC shows. I love your local shops and boutiques because of your unique style and ability to bring the community together. Although you can be rough around the edges, I love how all of your high schools help shape the culture of our community. Your great history inspires many, and is a cornerstone of the success of our Bull City.


Daniel Gwyn and Nyasija Ruebin



Deion Via.

Dear Durham,

We are Hillside high school. We are more than just the stories you hear. We embody success.

You hear the negative things about Hillside but you don’t hear how we have the #1 graduation rate or $8 million dollars in scholarships. You also don’t hear about the close relationships we have with our teachers. When we hear these things it makes us feel unappreciated because all the hard work that we put in it doesn’t get recognized.

We put a lot time in our clubs and organizations, grades, and sports and we think that makes us better as a school and as a community. These are things that we do every day and you never hear about it, but as soon as someone near us does something negative for one day it goes straight on the news.

Jada Hatchett.

I really hope this changes your perspective about Hillside. It’s not a thug school. It is a place where we stick together no matter what. We will not let people define who we are when we know who we are already.


Rekia Smith, Jada Hatchett, Cyrum Lewis, De’andre Gamble, Deion Via



Dear North Carolina,

Hello from the students of Hillside High School. We want to inform you of the love for our city. Many would say that Durham has crime rates like Chicago, that Durham is boring and that it has a lot of gangs. However, you are not in Durham, you have not felt the vibrant vibes from our downtown. You have not joined the community in gatherings and felt the cheerful vibes at a Durham Bulls game. There are so many things tied to Durham.

De’andre Gamble.

In Durham, we have a beloved high school — Hillside. Hillside High School is not what many people say it is. Many people say very negative things about our school. For example, whenever there is a crime, no matter the minority of it, everybody associates that said crime with Hillside. Stereotypes surrounding this school include that there are always fights, lots of gang activity inside and around the school, etc. But as students of Hillside, we all know that is not true at all. Many people say that the teachers don’t care about the students and their success and lives outside of school. The truth about Hillside is that the teacher/student relationships are really great. The teachers show that they care and want their students to do well. The students also strive to do well. This is

Raina Matthews.

shown by the $18 million dollars and counting towards scholarships for just this year. In addition students are very versatile with their academics as well as their extracurriculars. This includes being apart of theatre, dance, chorus, art, athletics and community service organizations. They are recognized all over the world for their achievements – theatre going to Cuba. on top of all of these achievements there are still more to shed light on. The graduation rate is 96% and the attendance rate is also 98%. There are hardly any fights at hillside, though fights occur at every school, when they do happen there is immediate administrative consequences. There is also a great alumni involvement in the school, students that went here love and appreciate their school. Finally we want to encourage other media outlets to write about positive things happen things happening, such as the durham voice article on our school’s popular prayer circle. This article has gotten over 9,000 views this week. This is the school that we have become to know and love and we would like you to get involved and love our school as well.


From: Akieliah Robinson, Jeong JIWoon, Kijana Pugh and Raina Matthews



Mirian Mata Anguiano

Dear Durham,

We are students at Hillside High School.

Although we all have different backgrounds, we all feel the same about our school.

One of us is a transfer student from Jordan High School who loves Hillside.

While one of us came into this school without friends, but in the end became Class President.

Lastly, one of us has been here for four years, and will always love Hillside.

Many people who aren’t from Durham don’t always understand the affection we have towards Hillside. Therefore, we’d like to explain why.

If anything happens near our school, people always blame us. We believe that shouldn’t be the case. A great school should not be judged based off of what happens around it.

Stefany Alvarado.

Hillside has its negatives and positives like any other school. For example, there may be disagreements , but we believe that out the commotion , we are able to see who your true friends are.

Despite the constant negative portrayal, our school continues to rise above the negative opinions. We have the highest graduation rate, and have raised eight million dollars, so far, in scholarships for the Class of 2017.

Additionally, our school has a hard-working athletics department and an amazing Performing Arts program. Also, we have witnessed positive relationships with teachers and students. Many teachers try to build an inclusive space for students, which makes our school family-oriented.

In conclusion, we want people to see past the stereotypes that are within our community. Our school is so much more than what some of the media portrays. We, as students of Hillside, invite you to experience the excellence within the Hornet’s Nest.

Stefany Alvarado, Mirian Mata Anguiano, and Elaijah Gibbs