Sarah Grace Brownlee has been named Hillcrest’s STAR Student for the 2018-2019 school year by the Mississippi Economic Council (MEC) M. B. Swayze Foundation, sponsor of the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program. Established in 1965, the purpose of the STAR program is to recognize outstanding students & teachers in Mississippi through its Education Celebration. Their theme this year is “Reach For The Stars,” and Sarah Grace will be honored during the annual Education Celebration on April 11 at the Jackson Convention Complex. This is a prestigious event co-sponsored by well-known corporations such as AT&T, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, Nissan North America, Inc., Walmart, and many more, as well as by MEC members from local communities across the state.
Star Students are selected on the basis of academic excellence. Both ACT scores and scholastic averages are used to determine each school’s STAR Student. Each STAR Student is then asked to designate a STAR Teacher, the one who has made the greatest contribution to the student’s scholastic achievement. Sarah Grace chose Mrs. Lindsey Noble, her 11th-and-12th-grade English teacher, as her STAR Teacher.
Over 650 STAR Students and Teachers will be recognized at the Celebration. The top 20 students –The ALL-STAR Scholars – will receive scholarships, and their STAR Teachers will receive monetary awards provided by the Kelly Gene Cook, Sr. Charitable Foundation. The highlight of the Education Celebration will be the naming of the Mississippi ALL-STAR Scholar for 2018-2019 school year, winner of the coveted $24,000 Cook Foundation Scholarship.
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.