Editor’s Note: “Hometown Heroes” is an occasional series featuring a local person doing good for the community in Weston and beyond. If you know of someone who should be featured in this column, please email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Robert Hildreth, founder and executive director of FUEL, Families United in Educational Leadership.
WESTON CONNECTION: Hildreth has been a Weston resident since 1988. He and his wife were moving from Los Angeles and started driving up and down Route 128 one day checking out communities.
“When we came to Weston, we thought it was so beautiful,” he said.
Hildreth has been a longtime member of Weston Education Enrichment Fund Committee (WEEFC) and led the town’s technology report in 1995.
WHAT MAKES HIM A HOMETOWN HERO: Hildreth, a businessman with a background in investment banking, has been a longtime supporter of education. About three years ago, he got the idea for FUEL when he offered to help pay for bonds for illegal immigrants caught in a raid in New Bedford. He offered matching funds to any family who could come up with the cost of half the bond, and was surprised at how many people took him up on it.
He had the idea to do something similar with education.
“Since I was already doing education in Lynn, we immediately decided to try that out on parents for education goals,” he said.
In early 2010, FUEL came together to help struggling families in Lynn, Chelsea and Boston. FUEL requires participating families to save a fixed amount of money each month, which FUEL matches. Participating families are also required to attend financial literacy meetings and participate in after-school educational programs.
Relying on the family to help out with these educational and financial goals, rather than just the student him or herself, is the key to success, said Hildreth.
Right now, FUEL has 300 families participating. “We are researching other communities to see where our program fits best, and we plan to expand in the near future,” said Hildreth.