Carly Hill is a 24-year-old East Cleveland native who founded The Cardinal Nest Inc. to help local high school students transition into college life. As a Howard University alumni who is working on her second master’s degree, she believes that serving others is the best way to give back and has dedicated her life to helping those in need. Check out this Q&A with Carly to find out more about her passions and organization.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Carly Hill and I grew up in East Cleveland, Ohio. I attended Shaw High School and graduated as the Valedictorian in 2010. From there, I went to Howard University where I studied Health Education and Biology, and graduated with honors in 2014.
Upon returning home to Cleveland, I began my tenure at Cleveland State University in the Master of Education program where I attained my degree in Community Health Education in 2016. As I was pursuing my first Master’s degree, I founded The Cardinal Nest Inc. I also began working full time at Care Alliance Health Center as a HIV Testing Coordinator until I was promoted in 2016 to my current role as an External Affairs Associate for Programs & Development.
In addition to running The Cardinal Nest and working full time, I serve in a variety of roles in community organizations, such as the Cleveland Council of Black Colleges Alumni Association, The Howard University Alumni Club of Cleveland, The Cleveland Section of the National Council of Negro Women, College Now Greater Cleveland Emerging Leaders Board, and the Ohio Society of Public Health Educators. And in August, I will attain my Master of Nonprofit Organizations from Case Western Reserve University.
Why did you found Cardinal Nest? What need did you see?
The Cardinal Nest came from me sitting on the campus of Howard University among some of the most brilliant, talented, and powerful individuals I’d ever encountered. There were so many things that I wish I had known as a high school student that would have prepared me for being in such an environment. As a result, I decided to return home and craft a program that would allow me and others who had experienced the world beyond East Cleveland, Ohio to impart valuable jewels on students who were eager to reach new heights. This was especially critical in the East Cleveland area because most people who do achieve success end up leaving the city and never coming back to work closely with the students.
For instance, I never had a mentor who had walked in my shoes. It would have been valuable for me to have someone who truly understood what it was like to go from Shaw to a place like Howard. Someone to talk me through the experience from a first-hand account would have made a world of difference to me as a young, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed girl walking through my campus.
It was also important to me to form an organization that would equip students for dealing with the challenges of life after high school. They spend so much time as students trying to pass standardized tests as opposed to learning anything about life such as professionalism, financial literacy, cultural awareness, self-esteem, setting goals, and more. Our program essentially works to prepare students for life after high school so that they can reach optimum levels of success.
What drives/fuels your passion?
It is my belief that nothing that comes to me belongs to me. Every experience that I have, everything that I accomplish, and every challenge that I face is meant for me to share with someone else so that they can learn from me. The great Shirley Chisolm once said that, “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.” I stand by that and believe that it is my humanly duty to be of service to others and my way of serving is by pouring into the youth of my community. When I bypass the opportunity to help someone else, I am personally tormented because I know that God placed me here for that reason. That’s what drives my passion.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I hope to be the CEO of a medium to large existing nonprofit organization while serving on the Board of Trustees for The Cardinal Nest Inc. I say that because my vision is for The Cardinal Nest to perpetually be run by students who came through the program and who understood the purpose. I also see myself starting a nonprofit consulting business and incubator for minority nonprofit leaders. I will definitely have my PhD as well. Maybe even a family.
What advice would you give a young woman who is facing some of the same challenges you’ve faced?
I would say to them that the challenge isn’t the issue, it’s how you deal with it. You can choose to let that challenge stop you from being your best self, or you can learn from it, grow from it, and share it with someone else. I don’t believe in problems, just opportunities. I would also advise young women to take time to fully understand and value their own unique gifts, talents, and skills.
Sometimes challenges, adversity, and rejection have a way of hurting our self-esteem so it is critical that we remember who we are and what we bring to the table. This way, when adversity comes, it does not take away from who we are as individuals. I credit Howard University for teaching me that because I was literally rejected from everything that I tried to do while I was there.
In high school, I was always the best at everything so rejection was a new experience for me. I spent many nights crying and questioning who I was and why I was even at Howard. But finally, I walked into my purpose. I became a Resident Assistant in a freshman girls dormitory. That experience allowed me to use the adversity that I faced to both help others through their similar experiences or to help steer them away from similar paths.