Where Are They Now? – Meredith Parker

Meredith Parker, a graduate of the Class of 2013, was one of Hillcrest’s most active students during her 14 years as a Cougar, trying her hand (and succeeding) at seemingly every activity offered. Not only was she in the top 5 percent of her class academically, Meredith was a cheerleader, a member of the Envirothon and Quiz Bowl teams, a Student Council officer, President of both Honor Society and the Student Body, a participant in Youth Legislature, and more.  Her achievements were recognized and rewarded during her senior year when she was elected as Most Likely to Succeed by her peers, selected as Hillcrest’s recipient of the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award, AND chosen by the faculty and administration to be a member of the Hillcrest Hall of Fame. These accomplishments led to her receiving a scholarship to Ole Miss, where she graduated Cum Laude this past May with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and English.

During her time in college, Meredith worked as a reporter and producer at NewsWatch Ole Miss, and wrote for both the Meek School Magazine and the Daily Mississippian.  She also interned at the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, with HLN’s Weekend Express.  Parker may be most recognizable, however, as one of the newest faces to join 16 WAPT News, where she is a morning and weekend reporter covering Jackson and Central Mississippi.

The message Meredith has for current HCS students is a quote which she says has stuck with her “for a while now: ‘You can grow up to be anything, so grow up to be happy and kind.'”

Where Are They Now? – Cheryl Gladney

With the exception of a short span of time when she was in 2nd -grade and another year-and-a-half when she lived in Kentucky during her junior high years, Cheryl Gladney attended Hillcrest from 1st grade throughout her senior year of high school. Before her graduation in 1989, she was a member of the Beta Club, yearbook staff, band and flag corp, as well as the drill team. She then attended Mississippi College, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology in 1993. Afterward, she went to the University of Mississippi Medical Center and received her MD degree in 1997, then completed residency in 2000, specializing in internal medicine. Dr. Gladney worked for Premier Medical Group from 2000 until 2011 and then began working at King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven, where she has been employed as a hospitalist for the past 17 years.  She calls her career choice “very rewarding.”

Cheryl married David Kirk in 2001, and she has 2 step-children. She also is an avid outdoorswoman who loves to hunt and fish.

The message Dr. Gladney wants to relay to current HCS students is as follows: “Keep an eye on your goals, and keep God in your heart. He will help you achieve whatever you set your mind to. And always be kind to your fellow man. Also, another word… Always treasure the friendships that you make during high school because those friends will be with you throughout your lifetime.”

Where Are They Now? – Leland Chow

Leland Chow attended Hillcrest from first grade until his graduation in 1993.  He then attended the University of Southern Mississippi, graduating in 1997 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice. Chow began his law enforcement career in the Flowood and Madison Police Departments; he spent 18 years working between the two and was a shift supervisor in Madison during his last 8 years there. Currently, Chow works with the Mississippi Gaming Commission, starting as an Investigator/Agent Gaming Regulator. His duties included performing background checks and due diligence on casino employees at the management-levels all the way up to CEOs. Promoted in January to Special Agent in the Enforcement Division, Chow now supervises 6 agents; they cover the Vicksburg District Casinos which includes the cities of Greenville, Vicksburg, and Natchez. Their job is to ensure that casinos are following the regulations set by the state.

Chow wishes to relay the following pieces of advice to current HCS students: “Go and get your college degree!! Try not to take a break from school after graduating from high school. Set your goals short term and long term. Be kind and respect everyone, because one day that person may be your boss, and people will know people and they will not forget! I know college isn’t for everyone; however, that little piece of paper can and will do wonders for you in the long run. A degree will give you the edge over others without it, especially when a promotion comes along and especially those management /director positions.”

Where Are They Now? – Dan Kyzer

Dan Kyzer, a graduate of the Class of 2005, attended Hillcrest for 5 years, from 8th through 12th grades. During his years at HCS, he played junior high football and was involved in band, indoor percussion, choir, chapel band, and drama.  Dan also played guitar, bass guitar, various percussion instruments, and the euphonium.

Just before graduating from Hillcrest, a dear friend of Kyzer’s and fellow HCS grad Jason Hobert (c/o 2004), introduced him to Dr. John Ingwerson, the classical guitar teacher at Hinds.  He began studying with Dr. Ingwerson that fall, and in two years earned a scholarship to Southern Miss.  In 2009, he began studying at The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston with maestro Eliot Fisk, one of the great guitarists of our time. After finishing his Master’s Degree there, he moved to Denton, Texas to begin doctoral studies at the University of North Texas, where he earned a Doctoral Teaching Fellowship, and he is currently finishing his dissertation. As a Teaching Fellow at UNT, Dan served as the Director of the UNT Guitar Ensemble and taught applied lessons, guitar class, and guitar pedagogy.  His wife, Abigail, has a Master’s degree in Musicology from UNT.  They met there on the first day of class and were married in 2013.  The Kyzers still live just outside of Denton, and Abigail teaches private and group piano, as well as musicianship classes, at Coppell Conservatory.

Since 2014, Kyzer has taught applied and class guitar, music fundamentals, and music appreciation at Mountain View College in Dallas. That year, he founded the MVC Guitar Festival and continue to serve as its director; this weekend event takes place every April and includes concerts, masterclasses, competitions, and a community guitar orchestra. As a solo guitarist, he holds competition prizes from the Sierra Nevada Guitar Festival, Southern Guitar Festival (Columbia, SC), and Mississippi Guitar Festival, and he has been featured as an artist and adjudicator at the Lone Star Guitar Festival and the Collin College Guitar Competition.  Dan has collaborated with such ensembles as the Boston Metro Opera, MIT Women’s Chorus, Fort Worth Opera, Orpheus Chamber Singers, UNT University Singers, and Music Theater Denton. Currently, he and Abigail are working on “Concerto No. 1 in D Major” for guitar and orchestra by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco — their first major project together.

When asked what advice he would give to current and future HCS grads, Dan states the following: “Just as you practice a sport, an instrument, or an art, practice love and empathy. You will never know the influence your words and actions have and what your peers will remember when they think of you. Every time we can show love and caring, our lives are infinitely better than when we show bitterness, spite, and hate. These are the things that matter twelve years out of high school, far more than popularity, success, grades, and how much fun you had. On a more practical note, don’t worry if you don’t get into an Ivy League school or even to your second or third college choice. Also, if you don’t know what you want to do right after high school, don’t spend $40k (or even $10k) a year in tuition trying to figure it out. Determination and relentless curiosity — these are qualities that will help you make a plan to succeed both in your career and in life. They are just as important as the credentials you will surely earn from any college, whether you end up at Hinds, Ole Miss, or Harvard.”

Alumnus Assists Elementary Art

Annie Hutchins, who graduated from HCS last May with the Class of 2016, is in the second semester of her freshman year at the University of Mississippi; she is majoring in art with a minor in education.  In order to ensure that art education is indeed the career she wants to pursue, Annie spent much of her Christmas break from her studies at Ole Miss helping Mrs. Gifford teach art in the lower school.  She states that this rewarding experience helped her fully commit to her studies and to her goal of becoming an art instructor.  No doubt Mrs. Gifford enjoyed having such a capable assistant, as well!