As we become immersed in preparing for and celebrating Christmas, we must never forget that we give gifts because we were given the greatest gift of all — God’s perfect Son came to earth in the form of a man to sacrifice Himself so that we might have eternal life. Sometimes, however, we need reminders about the true “reason for the season” …and sometimes those reminders come from surprising sources, from young minds.
At the start of this school year, HCS sophomore Jessica Bewley traveled with her family and some members of her church to Santa Emelia, Nicaragua, where they worked in medical, dental, and pharmaceutical missions. Recently in her Writing Skills class, Jessica had to write an essay in which she defined a term which is meaningful to her; she wrote about hope and how her definition of it changed as a result of that trip.
Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” The Webster’s Dictionary defines hope as this: to want or to wish for something with a feeling of confident expectation. I do not believe that hope is always a verb, but an idea of light in the midst of darkness. I realized what hope was when I looked in the coffee-colored eyes of a young child in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. I found hope in a poverty-filled village where the thought of hope seemed to be hopeless. Read more
Senior Rasheed Griffin is finishing his third and final year at Hillcrest; this soft-spoken and friendly young man joined the Hillcrest family at the start of his sophomore year. Rasheed — or “Sheeeeed” as he is known in the Upper School halls — plays on the tennis team, and he is a member of the percussion section of the One Spirit One Sound band. He states that joining the band has been his favorite part of being at Hillcrest, and that “they are the greatest family I have.”
Outside of school Rasheed enjoys serving at church and mentoring others; this allows him to share the qualities which he believes to be his greatest strengths: his kindness and willingness to love others. These characteristics also fit with his favorite Bible verse, Romans 1:16, which states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Rasheed treasures this verse because it tells believers “not to be afraid to stand up for what you believe in.”
As he gets closer to graduating and leaving Hillcrest, Rasheed has this advice for lower classmen: “Keep going, you guys got this! And, never stop being you.” This is easier to do at HCS than maybe at other schools, he states, because students receive “support from everyone,” including “all the teachers I’ve met and had.” Finally, Rasheed intends to use his musical talents to show that same support to others in the future; he is going to attend Jones County Junior College and major in band. He plans to be a music teacher and a church worship leader.
Kayla Tate has been a Hillcrest Cougar for 6 years; now in her final year at HCS, she serves as chaplain of Student Council, a water girl for the varsity football team, and a member of both Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. When she’s not at school, she enjoys traveling, watching YouTube videos, sleeping, and dancing. In fact, her love of dancing also influenced her favorite memory from her years at Hillcrest. Kayla states, “My seventh-grade Homecoming dance lasted 4 hours, and we danced all night long. It was the best.”
Kayla’s favorite teacher at HCS is Ms. Lauren Stovall. She reflects, “Ms. Stovall always had a positive attitude during class, and she would share her faith with us. Even though I no longer take her class, she still checks on me and prays for me.” That quality is something which Ms. Stovall and Kayla have in common: Tate is known among her peers for being bold about her faith in God. No doubt her favorite Bible verse has inspired some of that boldness. Kayla loves 1 John 4:4, which states, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” She says that this verse “reminds me that God’s strength lies within me, and it challenges me not to blend in with the world but to be a shining light for Christ.” She also believes that her caring attitude and her problem-solving skills are among her greatest strengths, along with her creativity and artistic abilities.
After she graduates in May, Kayla plans to attend “whichever college God leads me to.” No matter where that is, she intends to focus on her studies first and then to make new life experiences, always seeking to change for the better. That wise attitude and optimistic outlook extends to the advice she has for lower classmen: “Take time to appreciate where you are right now. Even though a situation may look troubling at the moment, there is always a positive sign around or at the end of it. Enjoy life the way it is.”
Preston Vaughan has been attending Hillcrest his entire life; for 15 years, beginning in K-3 and continuing through his graduation next May, he has been a Cougar. Now in his senior year of high school, Preston is a member of the HCS varsity soccer team, and he is also the percussion section leader for the One Spirit One Sound band. These activities also feature in his favorite memories from his years at Hillcrest: Vaughan states that beating East Rankin’s soccer team in a penalty shoot out and winning first place overall at the Copiah Marching Competition for the third year in a row are moments he will not soon forget.
When he is not at school or participating in school-related actvities, Preston’s hobbies include playing drums for his church, listening to music, and hanging out with friends. He is also an Eagle Scout, the highest rank a young man can achieve within the Boy Scouts of America. The years of hard work required for this achievement have given Vaughan opportunities to teach and to step up as a leader, qualities which he now believes are his greatest strengths. Strength is also the focus of his favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 40:31, which states, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” Preston says this verse is special to him because it “reminds me of the first time I went to Eagle Rock [a Christian retreat in the mountains of Tennessee], where I rededicated my life to Christ.”
Now approaching the end of his time at Hillcrest, Preston has the following advice for lower classmen: “You can’t worry about the past or the future because you have to live day by day.” And as his future leads him toward adult life, Preston plans to attend Hinds Community College in order to study music and percussive arts.
Senior Eddie Martin, Jr. came to Hillcrest 10 years ago and has become well known all over school as “the funny guy.” In fact, the Upper School student body voted him as Wittiest last year. However, while he does have the ability to make people laugh, Eddie takes athletics and his grades seriously. He is often recognized by his football and track coaches as one of their hardest workers, and he understands the roles determination and a positive attitude play in all of his endeavors. Still, Eddie certainly likes to bring the fun to everything he does, and he advises younger students of Hillcrest to “make the most of your time while you’re young.” His favorite teacher throughout his years at HCS was Coach Ware, whom Eddie remembers also as being someone who “made football and class fun.”
Outside of school Eddie finds enjoyment in hunting, fishing, and hanging out with friends, and he also enjoys working out to improve his athletic skills. His favorite memory from his time at Hillcrest is another result of his commitment to sports; Eddie states that the season the football team brought HCS to its first playoff game in about 12 years’ time is one he will never forget.
As his high-school years draw to a close, Eddie is beginning to make plans for success in his future. First, he intends to keep his favorite Bible verses, Proverbs 3:5 – 6, as a guide throughout life for keeping strong in his faith. They state, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Not too straight, though, as after his graduation next May, Eddie plans to attend college, but first, he says, “I’m going to Disney.”