Where Are They Now? – Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson Deaton graduated from Hillcrest in 2011 after attending for 13 years. During high school she was a member of both Honor Society and Beta Club, as well as of the yearbook staff, serving as Editor during her senior year. Melissa then attended William Carey University on full scholarship and was heavily involved with the Student Music Therapy Organization; she served as President for two years.

After completing a six-month music therapy internship with Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care of St. Louis, Melissa graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Therapy. She earned her music therapy board certification (MT-BC) in February of 2016 and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in music therapy at the University of Kentucky. Melissa is also working as a teacher’s assistant for the UK music therapy department and for the New Horizons instrumental ensemble for adults. Her current research interests include cognitive-behavior therapy techniques in hospice and bereavement.

Melissa has this message for current students: “Always trust God to guide you in the direction of his calling. There’s a very big world beyond where you are right now, and hard work gives you the freedom to explore it.”

Where Are They Now? – Mandy Horton

Mandy Rutland attended Hillcrest for 13 years, beginning in 5-year-old kindergarten and continuing through 12th grade, graduating as part of the Class of 2002.  Mandy was a member of the yearbook staff for 2 years, and she was a cheerleader from 6th through 12th grades.

After graduation, she attended Mississippi College and majored in Elementary Education. She has been teaching for 9 years at the k-5 and first grade levels.  She currently teaches K5 at Hartfield Academy in Flowood. She is married to Jason Horton (another Hillcrest alumnus), and they have two children: Hunter, who is 9, and Baliegh, who is 9 months.

Mike Salter of Brandon pauses to make a donation in the red kettle recently with Salvation Army bell ringer Violet Thompson of Raymond outside the Flowood Walmart. Cailyn Rhedin, 3, and Brenda Moffett of Brandon slip a donation into the Salvation Army red kettle. Mike Salter stops to make a donation while Flowood Rotary Club members Roscoe Greene and Sherry Cook, both of Brandon, volunteer as Salvation Army bell ringers outside the Flowood Walmart recently. Salvation Army bell ringer Violet Thompson of Raymond explains that another option for donors this year is the donation kiosk.

Mandy’s message to Hillcrest students is “never give up on your dreams. Always try hard in everything you do and give over 100 percent. Most of all, keep your eyes and heart open to the Lord and listen to His ways; they are always better than your own.”

Where Are They Now? – Chandler Key

It’s always a joy when former students pay a visit to their “old” teachers and school to share memories, but it’s a special blessing when alumni return in order to share their love of the Lord and their life experiences with current Hillcrest students.  Chandler Key — HCS Class of 2014 and Hall of Fame member — is in his third year of study at Mississippi College, majoring in Christian Studies with a focus in Ministry.  He also has recently taken the job of youth minister/director at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Byram.  Chandler returned to Hillcrest’s Upper School today to speak during Chapel; his message was a reminder to students, faculty, and staff that all believers have access to God all the time, due to the sacrifice of his son Jesus.  Our responsibility, then, is to spend time with Him, not just as part of a community, but one-on-one in prayer and Bible study.


Christians also have a responsibility to care for others when we see a need.  Proverbs 14:31 states, “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him.”  To this end, Hillcrest will be sponsoring Christmas giving projects — one among elementary students, and the another in the Upper School — to help children who may not otherwise have any gifts to open on Christmas morning.  Upper School students who want to participate should bring a bag of candy and 5 one-dollar toys. These items will fill stockings for approximately 80 needy children (between the ages of 3 and 10) who live in the metro area.  The deadline to bring items is Thursday, December 1st.  The Lower School is sponsoring a “Giving Tree.”  Elementary parents, please ask your children to share what they know about this service project, and detailed messages were sent today on Notify.

Hillcrest families have always been generous to those who are in need, and no doubt, we will once again meet (or surpass) our giving goals to help metro-area children have a Merry Christmas too.

Where Are They Now? – Tripp Douglas

Tripp Douglas attended Hillcrest for 9 years, graduating as Valedictorian in 1996.  During his time at HCS, he played football, soccer, tennis, and ran track. He was also involved in Student Council, National Honor Society, and the Yearbook staff, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Senior year, Douglas was number 33.

Douglas then attended Mississippi College, where he was an All-Conference goal keeper for the Choctaw soccer team. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and graduated Summa cum Laude (with a perfect 4.0 GPA) in 2000.  During his college years, Tripp became involved with Brilla Soccer Ministries and now serves on the board of that organization. This and his many other athletic achievements led to his being inducted into the Hillcrest Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.

Douglas is the owner of two businesses in the city of Ridgeland: a creative agency called Crema Design Studio and a coffee shop called Fusion.  He has also enjoyed using his design skills over the years to support his high-school alma mater.  While still in high school, he created the HC logo which Hillcrest still uses; then, in his college years Tripp designed the Hillcrest Christian logo as well as the Cougar mascot image which is featured on the wall in the high-school gym. Furthermore, he has designed nearly every yearbook cover for the past 15 years.  And most recently he assisted the school by designing the “United” t-shirts, creating graphics for the Color Run, and setting up the Hillcrest Annual Fund website.  Probably his greatest “claim to fame,” however, at least among HCS students and alumni, is that he is the son of our very own beloved Mrs. Bridges, librarian and yearbook sponsor-extraordinaire!

with wife Amanda and children Kyle and Ella

Tripp’s message to current Hillcrest students is the same one he tries to instill in his staff: Whatever you do (whether it’s school, athletics, or work), glorify God by doing it with excellence. He also reminds believers that Colossians 3:23 tells us to work as if we’re doing it for God Himself, not only for a teacher, coach, or boss. Douglas further states, “Glorifying God is not just for church – we as Christians are called to do it in every part of our lives. And working with that attitude will also bring you success!”

HCS is thankful to Tripp Douglas for his continued love and support for our school, and we’re so glad to call you not just an alumnus, but also part of the family (Sorry, Mrs. Bridges, but you have to share)!

Where Are They Now? – Caitlin Bingham

Caitlin Bingham began attending Hillcrest in the third grade and stayed until her graduation in 2009. During her years at HCS, she was involved in Honor Society, Student Council, Honor Council, HCTV, and Yearbook, and she was a cheerleader in her senior year. She met Josh Childs, another graduate of the Class of 2009, at the 2008 Homecoming dance. They started dating right before Christmas. Both then went to Hinds Community College, graduating in 2012; they married in the fall of 2014.


Caitlin worked for a time as a cosmetologist, but her dream was to become the proud owner of a business which would allow her to do what she truly loves.  After much research and hard work, she opened All That It Seams, LLC, which features her hand-knit and hand-sewn accessories for women, and every purchase benefits shelter animals.  She is most excited to have launched her business website — www.allthatitseams.com — just yesterday, November 1st.  Childs states, “I never quite realized how much of a foundation Hillcrest had given me until I began my journey as an entrepreneur. It’s so much more than knitting and sewing, I had to learn the ins and out of how the business world operates. Hillcrest gave me the capacity to learn and the tools to expand my knowledge on my own. The teachers at Hillcrest gave me more than just a typical high school education, they taught me how to continue to educate myself.”


With all that she has learned in pursuit of her goals, Caitlin has some sage advice to offer to the current students of Hillcrest: “Make the most of your education, especially if you’re intending on pursuing a career in business. History is important for learning from others and learning from the past. No business would be able to function successfully without math, you have to know your numbers. English may be the most important of all. Whether it’s using proper grammar and spelling, or researching, your business will NOT be professional without knowing all of the facets that a high school English class will teach you. Find the learning style that works best for you and never stop learning because knowledge truly is power.”

Caitlin Childs proves that a strong educational foundation, lifelong learning, and hard work are the keys to living out your dreams.  The Hillcrest family is proud to support her and wishes her continued success as her business grows.