For 14 years — since K-4 — Stephen Dooley has walked through Hillcrest’s halls. Everyone knows him for his country accent and his easy-going, laid back attitude about life. However, this young man is by no means lazy; he played football for the Cougars and works to maintain above-average grades, earning membership in Honor Society. Outside of school, he works even harder. Stephen is an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America and a member of the Order of the Arrow, having earned 43 merit badges throughout the years. He also does team roping in local rodeo competitions, helps to catch wild cattle in rough country, trains cow-dogs, and hunts and fishes. Basically, he says that he just loves doing anything outdoors.
Dooley believes his greatest strengths are his work ethic and determination, but at the same time, he is not uptight or anxious about his goals or his efforts. He realizes those attitudes can lead to unnecessary stress, and he even advises lower classmen at HCS, “Don’t kill yourself over school, but also don’t use that as an excuse not to excel in class.” One high school class in particular provided Stephen with many of his best and favorite Hillcrest memories; he remembers being entertained every day in 10th grade history by Coach Ware’s unbelievable and unbelievably funny stories.
As his high school career draws to a close, Stephen continues to set high goals for himself. First, he plans to let his favorite Bible verse, Romans 12:21, guide him throughout the rest of his life. He says that these words, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” remind him “not to get caught up in earthly wants, but to focus on God.” As for the future, he wants to attend Hinds Community College for 2 years and then transfer to Mississippi State in order to major in Agricultural Engineering, Technology, and Business.
Katie Martin has been a Hillcrest Cougar since second grade; now in her final year at HCS, she is a member of the Honor Society, the girls’ varsity basketball team, and a star member of Hillcrest’s track and field team. In fact, her favorite memories have come from her participation in athletics: She states that winning the AAAA District 2 track championship in 2017 and winning the AAA South State basketball championship this year are her most memorable moments from high school. Katie says, “I really like winning.” When she’s (rarely) not busy with one of these school-related activities, Katie says she enjoys sleeping. However, she has too much else “on her plate” to have a lot of time for sleep; Katie runs with the Mississippi Track Stars and even earned the opportunity to run in last summer’s USATF (USA Track & Field) Junior Olympics.
Katie is not just a great athlete, however; she is also dedicated to being a good student. She gives some of the credit for her success in academics to a few great teachers she’s had throughout the years, among them, Hillcrest math teacher Mr. Ryan. Katie states, “He actually made me enjoy math, and the donuts he brought sometimes didn’t hurt. I could always tell that he really does love being a teacher.” Above all, though, she credits determination as her greatest strength and the quality that leads her to want to be the best in everything she attempts. Katie adds, “If I am doing something I love, I won’t give up. To me, failure is never an option.”
That strong sense of determination carries over into Katie’s advice to the younger students of HCS: “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” It also helps to know that God has our backs through all that we do, as her favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 41:10, states, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” These will be important tools to take with her when Katie graduates this May and heads to Mississippi State University to major in Computer Engineering and to walk on as a member of the Bulldog track team.
Senior Tad Hammill has been attending Hillcrest for 14 years; he was a baritone player in the One Spirit One Sound band for 6 years, and he just finished another season with the Cougar soccer team. Outside of school, Tad enjoys watching Netflix and hanging out with friends; he also plays guitar. In fact, he believes his ability to quickly learn to play different musical instruments is one of his strengths. He also says that “making stuff up” as he goes is another one of his talents. Those who know him well probably wouldn’t state it quite the same way, but they would say that Tad doesn’t stress out about much of anything; he does his best and realizes that sometimes he might fail, but his failures do not define him. As a result, things just seem to work out in his life.
Tad has a laid-back outlook on life and an understanding nature; these are the same qualities he likes about his favorite Hillcrest teacher. He states that Mrs. Massey is “pretty chill and nice. She is also the best teacher I’ve had at this school.” Even his favorite Bible verse exemplifies this characteristic of doing your best, yet going with the flow: Ecclesiastes 7:23 states, “All this I tested by wisdom and I said, ‘I am determined to be wise’– but this was beyond me.” Tad relates that he read this verse at “Outback once, and my mom said it sounded like me. So, it stuck.”
Tad is not lazy, however; he simply deals with each day when it comes along. His advice to lower classmen reflects that. He says, “Focus on one thing at a time so you don’t lose your mind.” Nevertheless, he is planning for his future, though he has not yet definitively settled on a field of study or career. Tad is considering studying cosmetology to become a barber; he also is thinking about going to Delta State in the fall to major in audio engineering or graphic design. No matter what he chooses to do, Tad is going to be, and do, just fine.
Senior Langston Carter-Price, a member of National Honor Society and a successful athlete in several sports, has come to be known for his determination and his positive attitude throughout his three years at Hillcrest. He also is recognized as a leader and as being independent, unafraid to be himself and unwilling to follow the crowd. Langston’s favorite Bible verses, Colossians 3:23-24, encourage these qualities: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” He says he loves these words because “Before… I was working for the approval of my peers, but this reminded me that I am serving the Lord, so I now work with all my heart as if I’m working just for God.”
Before Langston came to Hillcrest, he attended a few different public schools as well as another private school; he says that HCS is different because of the encouragement students are given to grow spiritually. Langston states, “I haven’t been this close to Christ before, and it has changed my life.” He contributes to the openly spiritual atmosphere by singing sometimes during the worship portion of Upper School chapel services. Hillcrest has also given him some great memories which he believes he will always be able to think back on when he needs a good laugh: “During break time everyday, my teammates will make jokes and talk about each other. [I also think about] this year’s football season and all the funny things we did both on and off the field.”
Langston’s strong work ethic is a quality which he intends to take with him when he leaves Hillcrest later this year. He advises fellow classmates and lower classmen, “Never think life is going to be easy; it’s supposed to be hard. God does things for a reason, and putting us through hard times just prepares us for what’s to come. So don’t quit because it’s hard; have faith and push through because there is something even better at the finish line.” No doubt, this mindset will serve him well as he goes on to attend Dillard University and to study physical therapy.
Hayley McCann has spent the majority of her life at Hillcrest Christian School; this senior has been attending HCS for 13 years. Hayley is a member of Honor Society and the color guard, and she plays soccer and has been a member of the archery team. Outside of school, one of her greatest accomplishments has been trying out for and successfully earning a place as a member of the Genesis Drum and Bugle Corps for the 2016 and 2017 summer seasons; this requires a great deal of hard work and dedication over a period of 3 months, often practicing and performing from dawn until dusk, 7 days a week.
Hayley believes her best characteristics are her willingness to stand up for herself as well as for others when they need or want help. Still, she understands that if people aren’t determined and willing to work, they won’t achieve their goals; her advice to her peers and to underclassmen is “Work hard every day in everything you do, and never take anything for granted because life moves by quickly.” Her favorite Bible verse — Psalm 102:11-12 — also reminds Hayley that time is short; it states, “My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows. I am withering away like grass. But you, O Lord, will sit on your throne forever. Your fame will endure to every generation.” She says these words likewise stress God’s power over her own and show her that “I should never try to live my life alone, but always live it through him.”Throughout her years here, Hayley says Hillcrest has been an encouraging place to further her walk with God, and that HCS has also provided her with caring teachers whom she has always known she could talk to (such as her favorite teacher since K-5, Mrs. Michael). After she graduates in May, Hayley plans to attend East Mississippi Community College and then to transfer to Mississippi State University to major in Wildlife Agriculture Conservation. She hopes eventually to move to Texas and to become a Wildlife Biologist.