Where Are They Now? – Elizabeth Simmons

Elizabeth Simmons attended Hillcrest for 13 years and graduated in 2004 as Salutatorian of her class; she was also inducted into the Hall of Fame. During her high school years, Elizabeth kept busy and was involved in National Honor Society, Beta Club, Teenage Republicans, Quiz Bowl, Mu Alpha Theta, Science Club, Dance Team/Color Guard and Drama Club.

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In 2008 she graduated magna cum laude from Mississippi College with her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology Medical Science. While at MC, Elizabeth was involved in Mortar Board Honor Society, Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society, and she was an active member of Swannanoa Social Tribe and Scouts student recruiters.  Simmons then attended medical school at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine and earned her Doctor of Medicine in 2012.  After that, she matched in Pediatrics at University of Tennessee Health Science Center/ LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, completing her residency and becoming board certified by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2015.  Dr. Simmons then joined Pediatric Associates in Memphis, which is affiliated with the LeBonheur Pediatrics clinics.

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Dr. Simmons wanted to relay the following message to current HCS students:  “When I was a student at Hillcrest, I knew I was getting a quality education, but I didn’t truly realize the full extent of how my time there would affect me long term. I was more than adequately prepared to start my classes at Mississippi College, and in turn, that helped me be prepared for medical school and beyond. However, I know that the growth in my relationship with Christ during these years was far more impactful on my future! Don’t miss or take for granted the wonderful opportunities that are provided at Hillcrest to grow personally, academically, and spiritually!”

Thank you for your wise advice, and congratulations on your hard-earned and well-deserved success, Dr. Elizabeth Simmons!

Where Are They Now? – Angela Sood

Angela Sood, now Dr. Angela Joshi, attended Hillcrest for her four years of high school, from 1998 until her graduation in 2002.  During that time, she was involved in the Honors Science Club and Quiz Bowl.

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After graduating, Angela attended the University of Mississippi Medical School from 2006 to 2010.  She then trained in Internal Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Afterward, she spent a year (2013 to 2014) as the Chief Resident of Quality and Patient Safety at the Veteran Affairs Hospital in Nashville; currently Dr. Joshi is in her third and final year of cardiology fellowship training.

Angela’s message for current Hillcrest students is, “Be motivated to learn as much as possible and to reach for the stars because you never know what may happen.”  Her success, both in her years as an HCS Cougar and in the fourteen years since, proves that Dr. Joshi has taken her own advice to heart.

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Daughters Saanvi and baby Shanaya

Where Are They Now? – Adam McWilliams

WAPT meteorologist Adam McWilliams, HCS Class of 2007, recently took time from his busy schedule to write about his years at Hillcrest Christian School and what he’s been doing since then:

I attended Hillcrest from K4 through to graduation. My love for the weather started at about 4 or 5 years old, although my parents say I was still in a walker watching the Weather Channel. When I was at Hillcrest, I quickly earned the nickname “ The Weatherman,” and my reputation proceeded me throughout my entire school career there. Usually, it’s a bad thing when teachers know your name before you step in their classroom, but not in my case! All the teachers would talk, and let the next grade’s teachers know that if they had me I would do the weather.

I wasn’t involved in any sports throughout high school; I was too busy either with schoolwork or interning with 16 WAPT chief meteorologist David Hartman. I actually met David at Hillcrest. My 10th grade Chemistry teacher, Mrs. Jennifer McAdory, had David surprise me during class one day. It was quite a shock when David walked into my classroom; my eyes must have been the size of saucers! A year later, I started an internship with him that lasted until I went to Mississippi State.

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And then in my junior year, Mrs. Sandra Bridges asked me if I would like to do the weather for the morning announcements on HCTV. I quickly accepted and had a blast doing it. I remember forecasting Hurricanes Katrina & Rita  in 2005 on HCTV before they hit the Gulf Coast.  I tell people Mrs. Bridges is the reason I’m in TV today, she gave me my first on-air job doing the weather. I really believe doing HCTV got rid of my TV jitters. I will always be indebted to Mrs. Bridges for doing that for me. It really was a confidence booster at a time when I didn’t have a lot of it. She gave me something to look forward to, and she will always have a special place in my heart for that.

After I graduated Hillcrest in 2007, I went to Hinds Community College for a couple of years, and then I transferred to Mississippi State University in 2009 (Hail State!) and earned a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Meteorology in 2012. During my time at MSU, I anchored the school’s Campus Connect Forecast on the university TV station. My last semester there, I won the 2012 Associated Press Award for Best College TV Weathercaster in the state of Mississippi. My biggest memory at MSU was chasing the monster tornadoes that rolled across Mississippi and Alabama on April 27, 2011, the Dixie Alley Super Outbreak. That day, 2 EF-5, tornadoes came within 50 miles of the MSU campus. Seeing the destruction first-hand changed me and solidified my resolve to keep people safe during severe weather.

I graduated MSU with a 3.2 GPA and had a job before graduation at WXVT-TV 15 in Greenville, doing the weekend weather.

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Then in July of 2013, I accepted the job at WAPT as the weekend morning meteorologist. It is surreal sometimes [to realize that] I’m working with the man I looked up to as a kid. I learn so much from David everyday, and I quickly realized why he is the most trusted weatherman in Central Mississippi. His calm during severe weather is something I hope to learn as I progress throughout my career.

Hillcrest has some of the best teachers in this state who really take a vested interest in their students. I had so many teachers who loved me and supported me in what I wanted to do, and they created an environment where I could flourish. The teachers there truly love God and show Christ to students each and every day.

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If I could give any advice to the students there now, it would be chase your dreams no matter how big they may be. My grandfather always used to tell me, “Find your passion and then find out a way to get paid for it, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I did that, and it’s 100% true. I don’t dread going to work like most people do. I’m so thankful to the good Lord that he has blessed me with a job where I can do my passion for the weather and get paid for it! I couldn’t be luckier and am truly blessed.

Thank you so much, Adam, for sharing about Hillcrest’s impact on your life, about following your passion, and about God’s blessing your efforts.  HCS will forever be proud to call you one of our own.

Where Are They Now? – Josh Horner

Josh Horner, a class favorite and Prom King of Hillcrest’s Class of 2000, was a highly awarded football player during his high school years.  In his senior year, he shared the bench-press record and was co-named MVP for football, and he earned the MPSA (now MAIS) All-Star linebacker, All-Conference and All-District linebacker and offensive line, and best defensive back and offensive lineman awards. These led to his receiving a football scholarship to Belhaven College where he played as a linebacker.   Horner then finished his bachelor’s degree in coaching at the University of Southern Mississippi in 2004.

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Josh worked as a firefighter and EMT for five years, most of that at the Clinton Fire Department, during which time he laughingly states that his most heroic acts were saving “a couple of dogs and an attempt to save a cat” from house fires.  He then briefly worked at the Flowood Fire Department before returning to Hillcrest in order to teach and coach in 2010.

Horner’s career path changed drastically in 2012 when he surrendered to the Gospel ministry. That decision, along with his love of reading, learning, preaching and teaching God’s word, and helping others led him right back to Hillcrest, where he serves as high-school Bible teacher.  Josh also is Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church of Byram and is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree in pastoral leadership at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Josh and his wife Jessica have been married for ten years and have two children, Brock, who is 7-years-old, and Rhett, who is 2.  The Hillcrest family is blessed to have not just this Cougar alumnus, but his entire family, as daily fixtures on campus.

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Where Are They Now? – Kayla Thornton

Kayla Thornton is a 2010 graduate of Hillcrest who played in the One Spirit, One Sound band and served as drum major in her final year at HCS; she also was a member of Envirothon, Quiz Bowl, and Honor Society during her high school career.  Kayla was voted as Most Talented by the upper school student body and graduated as Salutatorian of her class, earning numerous scholarships toward the college of her choice.

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Kayla accepted a vocal scholarship to Delta State University and was a member of both the Delta State Chorale and the Delta Singers during her time there.  She was also active in numerous other areas of campus life, including Kappa Delta sorority, Omicron Delta Kappa (a national leadership honor society for college juniors or seniors who rank in the upper 35 percent of their class), Alpha Epsilon Delta (the national health pre-professional honor society), and she was a staff member of The Broom, Delta State’s yearbook, serving as Editor-in-Chief during her senior year.  Thornton graduated with cum laude honors in 2014, having earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry.

At present, Kayla is a Pharm.D. candidate at Union University’s School of Pharmacy in Jackson, Tennessee.  Despite the amount of time required for study and keeping necessary certifications up-to-date in this very demanding field, she continues to take part in numerous community service projects, and she is a member of several professional pharmaceutical organizations, such as the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International (CPFI).  Thornton currently serves as president of Union’s chapter of Phi Lambda Sigma, the pharmacy leadership society, and she was recently awarded the Walgreens Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Scholarship.

If her past is any indication of her future, Kayla Thornton is nowhere near finished adding to her already long list of accomplishments and honors, and Hillcrest continues to be proud to call her one of its most distinguished alumni.