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More than Just a Game

By Riley Cronin

Fellows and Fellow Alumni are familiar with “Weeklies,” brief business memos that are sent by every Fellow to El Pomar leadership each Friday recapping project milestones and tasks completed throughout that week. Many Fellows see this memo as a sign of the approaching weekend. They finish up last-minute tasks after sending it and sign out until Monday morning. However, Terrell Brown, Fellowship Class of 2016, said his weekends as a Fellow were a bit different.

“I was pretty much working seven days a week,” he said. “After I submitted my Weekly, I was working on establishing my nonprofit, Hillside Connection, on Saturday and Sunday.”

Eight years later, it seems not much has changed. Finding time to interview Terrell was challenging because, like many Fellows past and present, his entrepreneurial and philanthropic interests, coupled with a new life as a husband and father, keep him busy.

Terrell was born and raised in Southeast Colorado Springs. He was exposed to the business of sports early in his childhood and knew he wanted to be a basketball player. Terrell’s journey as a Division I college athlete was an uphill battle. He attended three schools in five years. After moving to Montana to attend Montana State University, where he played basketball for three years of eligibility and studied marketing, he came back to Colorado Springs for El Pomar’s Fellowship.

As a collegiate basketball player and sports enthusiast, he quickly saw a need for access to youth sports and enrichment opportunities. He chose the Hillside neighborhood, his childhood “safe haven,” as the location to launch sports programming. His weekend programming eventually gained enough attention that, with the help of El Pomar’s then-President and COO (and current CEO), Kyle Hybl, he put together his articles of incorporation. Seven years later, his organization – Hillside Connection — is thriving, with the mission to leverage the game of basketball to create pathways to opportunity for kids in Southern Colorado Springs.

“There was already a history of southside Colorado Springs that I was blessed to have, there was already a story,” Terrell said, when asked why he chose the Hillside community.

“A mission was placed on my heart by God to return to my old stomping ground and make a positive difference,” he said.

Terrell acknowledged that he didn’t initially think he would start a small nonprofit, but it naturally progressed to that. For two years, he worked weekdays for El Pomar, and weekends for his start-up. During weekly “Round Up” meetings, another Fellowship staple, Terrell remembers sharing milestones with his peers. He would proudly announce each week that there were 10 or 12 kids at the Hillside Center, and promoted his program with a logo that another Fellow helped him create. He used his El Pomar community and their lessons about relationship building, event organizing, and program management to implement changes in his Southeast community.

After two years as a Fellow, Terrell left El Pomar for a different full-time job but with the same excitement about his passion project. He spent almost two years working at Pikes Peak State College and subsequently, the Sachs Foundation. Since Fall 2022, Terrell has worked as an Account Manager for Athlete Network by day and a social entrepreneur by night.

His commitment to his community is paying off. Today, Terrell is pleased to lead an organization that has both a board of directors and a program coordinator. He has gone from serving 10 kids a week to over 1,000 kids annually, with 500 being active participants who show up to all four tiers of programming.

Kids at Hillside Connection start with access to quality basketball programming. After that, they participate in enrichment programming, community engagement, and competitive play made possible through strong support from the local community.

According to the website, Hillside Connection primarily serves children of color. When asked about the breakdown of male to female participants, Terrell said, “I love that question because the female side is starting to grow! When programming started, there was only the capacity to serve a few young boys. Today the breakdown is 70 percent boys and 30 percent girls.”

Terrell went on to share that as Hillside receives more support, he anticipates girls becoming the majority because there is more of a need there.

Terrell is optimistic about the future of Hillside Connection. He says that his favorite part of Colorado Springs is the beautiful nature and the people, and he is proud to be a native of Southeast Colorado Springs, an El Pomar Fellowship alum, and a successful social entrepreneur!

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