Student Spotlight – Joseph Moss, Valedictorian

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.

Student Spotlight – Amber Speegle, Salutatorian

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.”

Student Spotlight – Prom Queen & King

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.

Student Spotlight – Baseball Bros

Harper Bell and Bradford Patton are long-standing members of Hillcrest’s Cougar baseball team, and as seniors this year, they are leaders both on the field and in the school halls.

Harper Bell has attended HCS for 13 years, since kindergarten; over the years he has played football, soccer and baseball, where he alternates between playing at short stop and pitching. He has also been recognizable as one of the members of the “Hype Squad,” the guys who created and performed halftime shows during varsity basketball games. He says that helping to get that tradition going again has provided some of his favorite Hillcrest memories, along with “Going on bus rides with my teammates, eating breakfast before football games, and throwing sauces at Connor McDavid’s truck.” Outside of school, Harper enjoys hanging out with friends and playing even more baseball.

Harper lists his current baseball coach as one of his favorite teachers at Hillcrest. He states, “Coach Foreman is someone I strive to be like. No matter the situation or problem, he is always positive about it. I have never seen anyone else do what he has done, with all he sacrifices to be our coach and our teacher.” Similarly, Harper realizes that he, too, serves as a leader to younger Hillcrest students; he says, “I believe I set examples and am looked up to by them both on and off the field,” and the best advice he has for them is “Even when life gets tough and stuff doesn’t go your way, never give up.” After his graduation next month, Harper hopes to continue playing baseball and to major in engineering, with the ultimate goal of becoming an architect. Along the way his favorite Bible verse — Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not lean on your own understanding” — will continue to guide Harper as it has throughout his life: “That is how I’ve gotten through a lot, just putting trust in God and letting him do the work.”

Senior Bradford Patton, who began attending Hillcrest 6 years ago, played football for the Cougars and plays the positions of pitcher and third base for the baseball team. Baseball also led to one of Bradford’s favorite memories from his high school years: He says that being named 1st-team All-Conference pitcher is something he will always remember, along with “getting Chik-Fil-A at chapel sometimes and the whole school going to the movies to see God’s Not Dead” during spiritual emphasis week one year.

Bradford is known to be a hard worker in every aspect of his life, and because of this, his peers often come to him for advice. He believes that his ability to encourage his fellow HCS students is one of his strengths. One of the ways he does that is to share advice such as the following: “Keep working hard, and don’t study for tests at the last minute; always go 100 percent in everything that you do for God.” Bradford shows that willingness to go above and beyond even in the activities he undertakes outside of school; he enjoys cutting grass for people and working with his church to help needy people get off the streets.

As his graduation in May quickly draws near, Bradford wants to continue to play baseball either for Holmes Community College or Tougaloo College, and then he plans to attend Mississippi State in order to pursue aerospace engineering. He also will take his favorite Bible verse with him, which addresses both the future and plans, and has, he says, “defined how my life has been”: Jeremiah 29:11 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’.”

Student Spotlight – Cheer Year After Year

Seniors Brianna Foy and Eva Grace McCrory have been Hillcrest Cougars for the past 15 years; both girls began school together in Mrs. Dana Stratton’s K-3 class. They have also supported one another and our athletes as cheerleaders, beginning as Cougar Kittens while still in elementary school. With graduation rapidly approaching and their future plans taking them on different paths, these young ladies will no longer see each other daily; however, the memories they have created together throughout the years will ensure their continued friendship.

Brianna Foy has loved being a cheerleader; and while she has spent many years promoting happiness and encouraging her fellow Cougars to excel, she recognizes that it is important to have boundaries as well.  She wisely advises younger students, “Do not make yourself unhappy by trying to please everyone else around you.” Outside of school, she also enjoys baking sweets, dancing, and hanging out with her family, boyfriend, and friends. Brianna uses her leadership skills and her strengths for planning and organizing to keep her grades well above average; this has sealed her place as a long-standing member of National Honor Society. However, she shares some of the credit for her academic success with her instructors; in fact, Bri exclaims, “All teachers at Hillcrest are great!” Among her favorites, though, she lists “Mr. Ryan because he has been the only math teacher to make math stick in my brain, and Mrs. Massey and Mrs. Bridges because I can go to them with anything, and they are ready to help.”

Brianna also wants to help people in her future; she plans to attend Holmes Community College beginning in the fall. Upon completion of an associate’s degree, she will transfer to Mississippi State University to pursue pre-med, with the eventual goal of attending the University of Mississippi Medical Center and becoming an anesthesiologist. She is well aware that the course she has plotted is a difficult one, but her favorite Bible verse encourages her: Psalm 46:5 states, “God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.” Brianna says, “It reminds me that no matter where I go in life, as long as I have Christ, I can accomplish anything.”

Eva Grace McCrory believes that making people happy and helping them laugh when they’re sad is one of her strengths. She has used this gift as a Diamond Girl for the baseball team over the last 3 years, and as a cheerleader for most of her life, serving as Varsity Captain this year and co-captain in her 9th and 11th-grade years. Cheerleading has even been the source of many of her favorite memories. One of those occurred at her 4th birthday party, which (of course!) was cheer themed. She states, “All the varsity cheerleaders came to my house and painted our faces and played with us.” Along with her talent for sharing her happy nature, Eva further cites her willingness to give people the benefit of the doubt and to stand up for the things she believes in and cares about — “like my school, friends, and family” — as her best qualities. She wants to encourage younger students at Hillcrest to do the same when she shares, “Be different, stay confident in everything you do. There will always be someone who doesn’t agree with you or even like you. Even though it’s hard, never change your ways or who you are.”

When she’s not cheering on her fellow Cougars at school, Eva Grace enjoys spending time with friends and family, tanning, eating Taco Bell, watching Netflix, and dancing along with her favorite music. “Sometimes,” she says, “I even have mini concerts in my room.” She recognizes, however, that her future plans are going to leave little time for these activities. After her graduation in May, Eva plans to attend Delta State University in order to become an NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) nurse, a profession which will allow her to continue to comfort others, as she has always loved to do.