A Farewell Letter

   Thirty-four years with the Michigan Department of Human Services led me to think I truly understood the profession of Juvenile Justice in this state. When the opportunity to work for Highfields came to me 5 years ago, I expected to continue to lead status quo programming. Boy, was I in for a surprise. While there are many similarities in residential programming across the state, I knew on day one I had landed somewhere very different.

   The setting of a beautiful autumn-colored campus was in stark contrast to the institutional settings I had worked in previously. Staff members who took me in, guided me gently, and looked out for me like family, were also a new experience. The program, strictly focused on what was best for our client youth, awakened feelings of pride and passion that had gone dormant in me. I knew I was in a special place.

   Looking back, the choice to join a compassionate, cultured, non-profit was the perfect choice to continue my own growth and rekindle the quest to make the world a little bit better by helping those in need.

   At the top, CEO, Brian Philson, provides well-honed leadership that is strategic, visionary and truly in sync with the organization’s values and mission.  The leadership team balances individualism and collaboration, challenge and support, and compassion and reason as well as any I have seen. The supervisory and mission staff are infectiously energetic, positive and fun-loving, and passionately committed to finding and building on each youth’s strengths and skills. Put it all together and it is a vibrant work culture that brings the best out of clients and employees alike.

   One of my early and favorite mentors, Vince Little, often said “Before you can help someone digest serious changes in their life, you have to set the table with love and serve care for every meal.”  I always liked that mantra and thought I was applying it throughout my career.  It was not until I got to Highfields, that I saw this done by so many staff, for so many people, in so many programs that it is seriously an organizational norm.

   I wish to thank Brian particularly for opening this door for me and bringing me on board. I wish to thank all the Highfields staff members at every level for walking the walk of providing true and effective services to the less fortunate among us. Finally, I wish to thank the Highfields organization as a whole for being the frosting on my career cake and supporting me in leading a life of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.

God bless you all!

Derek Hitchcock
Director of Residential Services
Highfields, Inc.


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