Until recently, Ashley Myers’s entire school career had been spent at Hillcrest, but now she has bravely ventured across the world to become an international exchange student at Mount Barker High School in South Australia. Last week, Ashley excitedly started as a “year 11” student, enrolled in the following courses: P.E., Outdoor Education, Top General Math, English Literary Studies, Agriculture, and Psychology. She states that Mount Barker’s student body is much larger than what she is accustomed to at HCS, with 660 students in grades 7 through 12; however, her outgoing and intrepid personality will no doubt lead her to make many new friends. Though her Hillcrest family misses her, we can’t wait to hear about all of her adventures!
MAIS Band Clinic is an intense three-day experience which occurs annually and allows band students to sharpen their musical skills; it was held January 10 – 12 at Hinds Community College in Raymond. Students learned new techniques, which they then applied to challenging musical pieces after trying out for and being placed in one of two ensembles. They practiced for two days, and then, on the final day of Clinic, they performed in a concert held in Cain Cochran Hall.
This year’s Clinic featured 133 participants from seven schools across the state. Representing Hillcrest were the following: Micah Parkinson, Jesse Fountain, Phillip Hutchins, Talayeh Jones, Jared Bewley, Sarah Grace Brownlee, Danielle Wallace, Sancenia Johnson, Reece Hill, Trinity Amos, Brandon Thomason, Maddy Hughes, Josh Canoy, Alex Howell, Braxton Lewis, and Caitlyn McNamee.
One of the clinicians for this year’s event was a Hillcrest alumnus. Nathan Pepper is a graduate of Hillcrest’s Class of 1999; he was a member of the Cougar Band (prior to our band being named One Spirit, One Sound), participated in All-State Lion’s Band two years in a row, and was voted, “Most Talented” during his senior year. After earning both his Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Music Education from the University of Southern Mississippi, Mr. Pepper began his teaching career. He started working with the Ocean Springs High School band in 2006, and he is currently serving as Assistant Band Director for the “Blue-Grey Pride,” Director the OSHS Symphonic and Jazz Bands, and instructor for the 6th-grade low brass. He still enjoys playing trombone with First Baptist Church in Gulfport, the Coast Big Band, the Entertainment Cartel, and the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Pepper is a member of various professional music organizations and an active band clinician as well. He and his wife of thirteen years, Brandy, have two daughters, Olivia and Abigail.
Joseph Moss — known as “JoJo” among his peers — has been a Cougar since ninth grade; in his 4 years at Hillcrest, he has been active in a wide range of clubs and athletics. JoJo has played football, basketball, soccer, tennis, baseball, and he has been on the track and field team. He has also been a member of National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Quiz Bowl and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Outside of school, JoJo still finds time for other activities he enjoys, such as hunting and playing guitar. He feels it is important to be optimistic and a leader in everything he does so that he can “lead others to accomplish great things too and to better themselves.”
Throughout his relatively short time at Hillcrest, Moss has had many opportunities for making memories; going to the playoffs with the football team during his sophomore year was a favorite for him. His favorite teacher, Coach Horner, has also added to JoJo’s memories, because in every class and every occasion, he has shown that “He loves us students and wants so badly for us to know God’s love for us.” Showing God’s love to others is important to JoJo too; his advice to his peers is, “Never look for your satisfaction in anything in this world. The world is temporary, but God is eternal.” His favorite Bible verse, 2 Corinthians 4:18, reflects this same theme: ” So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Moss loves these words because they “remind us that the bad things in this world won’t last, and the good things are outdone by God’s glory.”
JoJo has been accepted to Mississippi State University, where he intends to major in biochemistry. After that, he hopes to attend the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, and then eventually to open his own veterinary clinic.
Amber Speegle has attended Hillcrest for 14 years, starting in K-4, and she has just finished her last days of high school here as well. HCS has been home to many of Amber’s accomplishments — such as being named Salutatorian of her graduating class — along with numerous fond memories. For instance, she recalls winning Homecoming Queen this past year as a memory she will treasure. Amber states, “I loved that I was voted for by my peers and represented the school in that way.” Beyond that, she created even more memories as she participated in several extra-curricular activities: Amber is a member of National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, and the tennis team. She also has held leadership positions in several organizations: Amber was this year’s One Spirit One Sound drum major, she was President of the senior class and of the student body, and she was a lead team member for FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). Without a doubt, her intelligence and leadership abilities have helped her succeed in each of these areas.
Amber credits former band director Todd Taylor and her involvement in band with allowing her “to find [her] niche at Hillcrest.” This also helped her gain the confidence to try those other activities. And while she recognizes the value of hard work and taking on responsibility, Amber has the following advice for younger classmen: “Do not let trying to make perfect grades and trying to be the perfect student take your focus off your relationship with Christ. It is important to have a balance and to prioritize.” One way she maintains balance is to give herself some down time, watching Netflix and snuggling with her cat Kali, playing tennis with friends, and shopping.
As she leaves HCS, she realizes that down time is going to be harder to come by. Amber is headed to Mississippi State in the fall, where she plans to major in biochemistry with a pre-med concentration; eventually, she hopes to attend the University of Mississippi Medical Center and to become an obstetrician. And though the road ahead will certainly be difficult at times, Amber says she has “no reason to be discouraged or afraid; God is with me always.” She is certain of this because of her favorite Bible verse, Joshua 1:9, which states, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Seniors Jaylan Brown and Bruce Reed are well-loved among their classmates and peers, as was evidenced by their being voted as Prom Queen and King this year. These two members of the Class of 2018 are not only likable, however; they have big plans for the future and are willing to work hard in order to achieve their goals.
Jaylan Brown is finishing her second year at HCS; she has been a cheerleader and joined with other members of her class to promote Black History Month recognition. Outside of school, Jaylan enjoys baking, spending time with family and friends, choreographing for the praise dance ministry at her church, and singing. She has shared her talents for singing and dancing during Upper School chapels. The fact that Hillcrest has given her opportunities to do so is part of what she loves about this school; Jaylan states, “It is a different environment all together. In public schools, you are on your own. During my time at Hillcrest, I have grown academically, spiritually, and socially. I didn’t expect to come here and fit right in and meet amazing people.” And Jaylan certainly has fit in, which led to her being voted as Prom Queen, her favorite memory of her time here; she says, “I didn’t expect it or anyone to really vote for me but Isaiah [her boyfriend], and it made the night 100 times better for me. It was a night to remember.”
Jaylan believes her greatest strength is her work ethic; she says she always tries to give her best efforts in everything she does, whether school work or other activities. At the same time, she realizes that “if it doesn’t work out, then it is not in God’s plan for me.” Her favorite Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11, reflects this, as it states, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jaylan says these words reassure her that her life is in God’s hands, that even though she makes decisions, God has the ultimate say-so and will lead her. This verse will definitely help her to follow her own advice to “take everything one day at a time,” as Jaylan plans to attend Louisiana’s Xavier University in the fall, where she will major in Biology and Pre-Med with the ultimate goal of becoming a dermatologist.
Bruce Reed began attending Hillcrest 10 years ago; he is a long-standing member of National Honor Society, and he has been a member of both the football and basketball teams. Athletics led to Bruce’s favorite memory from his school years; he recalls the basketball team’s winning the State Championship during his junior year as something he is proud to have been a part of. He says, “I will never forget the sight of the HCS student section running onto the court after we won the game.”
But Bruce is more than an outstanding athlete; his honesty, patience, respect for others, and self discipline — the qualities which he believes to be his strengths — are evident in everything he does. For instance, he feels that he struggled in the past when it came to academic writing, but with the help of his favorite teacher, Mrs. Massey, and the application of those qualities, Bruce has improved and excelled in the classroom as well. He took on the challenge of dual enrollment/college classes this year and earned A’s in both English Composition I and II. Bruce has the following advice for his peers who want to experience the same successes: “Always keep God first in your life. Don’t put yourself above anyone else, and continue to work hard every day.”
Finally, as Bruce grows ever closer to high school graduation and moving on to a career in pharmacy — he has been accepted to the early entry program at the University of Mississippi — he will carry the words from his favorite Bible verse with him. Philippians 2:14-15 states, “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” He knows the road ahead will be difficult at times, but those words, “God telling me to do everything in my life without complaining and grumbling,” will keep Bruce at the top of his game.