Whenever a group of HCS students is “fired up” and having fun at a school event, Jake Lape can be found right in the middle of, if not at the front of and leading, them. Jake has been a student at Hillcrest for 8 years, and not only is he a long-standing member of the “Hype Squad,” he has played football, basketball, baseball, and has run track throughout his years as a Cougar. His experiences in athletics here have led to some of his favorite memories as well as some valuable lessons. Jake recalls that his JV basketball season, in particular, was particularly memorable because the team “went 21 and 2, and [we] formed great friendships.” That season also taught him that “It ain’t over ’til it’s over. The lesson learned was never give up. We came back and beat Prep AT Prep after being down by 20 points.”
Jake has learned other lessons during his years at Hillcrest as well; for example, he advises his fellow classmates and younger students to “listen to your teachers and stay out of trouble… even though the chairs in the [adminstration] office are actually pretty comfortable.” This sense of humor and his friendly, outgoing nature are some of the qualities for which Lape is known; however, he believes that earning good grades is one thing not to joke about. Jake is intelligent and is proud to find his name posted on the honor roll at the end of nearly every term. Philippians 4:8 is a verse which helps keep his mind focused on “the right things” too. It states, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
After his graduation in May, Jake plans to attend Hinds Community College and then go to Ole Miss to pursue a career in physical therapy.
Senior Anna Grace Browning is finishing her fourth year at Hillcrest; she came to HCS at the start of her freshman year and felt at home almost immediately. Part of the reason for this is because she jumped right in to many of the activities offered. Anna Grace is co-section leader and a trumpet soloist for the One Spirit One Sound band, a member of both the Quiz Bowl team and the Yearbook staff, manager and statistician for the soccer team, Senior Class / Student Body Vice President, a member of Honor Society, AND she plays on the tennis team. Other aspects of Hillcrest which helped Anna Grace adjust quickly to her new school home are the teachers, who “care about you as a person and want to help you succeed,” the friends and relationships she has formed, and the fact that “you can worship the Lord freely and are given opportunities to do so.”
Anna Grace hasn’t always felt so comfortable at school or even “in her own skin.” While transferring to Hillcrest has helped her find her place, she is also open about her struggles with depression, and is willing to share about the ways she has learned to tackle this obstacle. One of them is by studying God’s word, and one passage, in particular, has brought her comfort: 2 Samuel 22, verses 2 and 3 state, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.” Anna Grace says these promises help to keep her moving forward. She also advises her peers to seek the Lord first, and she further wants to urge them to “Be yourself. LOVE EVERYONE, despite what they’ve done to you. Forgive those who have done you wrong. And always smile because it’s beautiful, and it makes you feel great.”
When she is not at school, Anna Grace enjoys reading, playing with her cats Ollie and Jango, and working at Randall Veterinary Hospital; this job reflects her desires to make a difference in the world by helping and caring for all life, animals and people alike. She has learned that by “loving on and caring for” treasured pets when they have to be away from their homes, she is also showing love to their human owners. This has led Anna Grace to map out her future as a Veterinary Technologist. After she graduates from Hillcrest in May, she plans to attend Mississippi State University and major in Pre-Vet Medical Technology. She then hopes to work for a few years as a Vet Tech, unless she instead decides to continue her education by matriculating into the College of Veterinary Medicine. Eventually, Anna Grace wants to own her own clinic and to work specifically with horses.
Thomas Cain, better known throughout Hillcrest’s halls as “Junior,” is a senior who has been attending HCS since sixth grade; he is a member of the Cougar varsity basketball and baseball teams. Outside of school, Junior enjoys playing even more sports, and he also likes to hang out with his friends.
Junior is known for his laid-back attitude and a quick sense of humor most of the time, but he is all business when it comes to athletics. He attributes his success in this area of his life to the fact that he is “constantly working out, trying to get better.” However, he also recognizes his true source of strength –the Bible verse which guides him is Philippians 4:13, which states, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” — and Junior says this promise always reminds him to stay strong in his faith as well as in every other task. Still, whether in athletics or in academics, he knows that it pays to prepare. His advice to fellow classmates and younger students at Hillcrest is as follows: “Always study ahead of time because teachers will not reschedule for you.”
Junior’s favorite memory from his years at Hillcrest happened earlier this year, when the varsity boys’ basketball team beat Jackson Prep on their home court, a feat which hasn’t happened “in a long time. It was a big deal,” he states. Junior hopes to continue defying expectations on the basketball court when he goes to college in the fall, while also earning a degree in a yet-to-be-decided major.
Senior Courtney West has been attending Hillcrest since fifth grade; she is a member of Honor Society, serves as statistician for the Cougar softball team, and plays clarinet in the One Spirit One Sound band. Being part of the band family led to her most memorable moment from her years at HCS: it happened just a few months ago when they took top honors — all superior ratings, first place in their division, and overall best band — at the Copiah Marching Festival for the third year in a row. Outside of school, Courtney keeps her hobbies simple; she says she enjoys “shopping and tending to my 14 cows.” The latter pastime fits right in with the qualities which she believes to be her greatest strengths: a strong work ethic and compassion for others. That same compassion is, in her opinion, the best thing about attending Hillcrest too; she observes the quality in “teachers that know and care about every single student. They are willing to go the extra mile.”
Courtney’s desire to follow Christ is evident in all aspects of her life, and the confidence and hope she gains as a Christ-follower leads her to advise lower classmen, “Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in.” That bit of wisdom is also strengthened by the truth found in her favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 40:31, which states, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Courtney says this passage further reminds her of her late grandfather and of his favorite hymn, “On Eagles’ Wings,” which is based on the verse, and which tells her that “everything will be okay, and I’ll see my Pepaw again in Heaven along with our Father.”
Finally, after she graduates in May, Courtney plans to attend Hinds Community College in Raymond, to continue participating in marching band there, and possibly to pursue a business major.
For 6 years Alana Price has brought her bright smile to Hillcrest’s halls; she carries her cheery nature onto the softball fields for the Lady Cougars, as well as onto the football field during halftime performances as part of the One Spirit One Sound Color Guard. When she’s not at school, hanging out with her friends, watching her favorite shows on Netflix, playing with her dog Riley, and singing are the activities which make her happiest.
Alana tries to help to others when they are struggling; she wants people to know that she is trustworthy and will truly listen to what they have to say. It’s no surprise, then, that her favorite Hillcrest teacher shares those same qualities; librarian Sandra Bridges “listens to you when you have a problem and does everything she can to help you. She helps me so much in my walk with Christ. She is a perfect example of who I want to be when I grow up.” Mrs. Bridges’s faith in the Lord is an inspiration to Alana, who wants to remind her classmates that “it’s ok to love God. He loved us first, so we don’t need to be afraid to love him back. Put him first in everything you do, and trust in him to guide you.” Along those lines, the Bible verse which guides Alana is Romans 10:9, which states, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” She credits this verse with showing her that she should never be ashamed to share her love of Christ with others.
After she graduates in May, Alana plans to attend either Hinds or Holmes Community College, most likely majoring in athletic training and minoring in theater and drama. She also intends to continue participating in color guard.