Senior Tori McCray has been attending Hillcrest for nine years; she is a member of Honor Society, and plays on the Cougar softball, basketball, and tennis teams. Tori also runs for the track team. Outside of school, this busy young lady is an active member of the Girl Scouts of Mississippi; she always becomes one of the most popular people on campus during Cookie sales time each year. When she (rarely) has free time, Tori enjoys playing tennis with her parents on the weekends. More than anything, however, she loves to read and to write fiction. In fact, the back of her senior jersey read, “Books > People.”
Tori admits that her extremely competitive nature — while useful when playing sports — is often a weakness; on the other hand, she believes that her greatest strength is the ability to see what is ahead of her, rather than only focusing on the here and now. This characteristic has led her to make large-scale plans for her future: Tori wants to attend Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, and to major in Intelligence and National Security Studies. After that, she plans to go to law school. These goals fit well with the motto that drives her: “Be better and do better than you did yesterday.”
In her advice to underclassmen at Hillcrest, Tori states, “Never take what you have for granted. Sooner than you realize, you will be a senior in high school, preparing for the next chapter. Don’t be dependent upon friends or even on parents; they won’t be there throughout your life, but Jesus will be.” Finally, her favorite Bible verse further illustrates this bit of wisdom; Psalm 40:4 states, “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!”
Connor McDavid is making the most of his ninth and final year at Hillcrest. His love of history has made him a valuable member of the Quiz Bowl team, and his size and determination are assets on both the offensive and defensive lines of the Cougar football team. He is a member of the golf team as well. Outside of school, Connor enjoys hunting, fishing, and riding.
Connor’s advice to lower classmen at HCS is to “live for today because you are not promised tomorrow.” Connor himself takes this advice to heart, and he believes his greatest strength lies in his drive not to let anything stop him or slow him down. This is most evident in the struggles he has overcome with his health since the age of 10. Since that time, he has undergone numerous surgeries and has re-learned how to walk four times. And as if that weren’t enough to convince many people to give up, Connor was diagnosed with occular melanoma, a rare form of skin cancer of the eye, when he was 13 years of age. He recalls, “Everyone told me I could quit football, and it would be okay because I had a reason to quit, but I continued to play because I wanted to prove that I wasn’t going to let anything ever stop me.”
McDavid has been impacted in more ways than one by the sports in which he has participated at Hillcrest; he credits his coaches not only with making him a better athlete, but also with bringing him closer to the Lord. Perhaps this has led to his decision to attend Mississippi College after graduation in order to pursue a career in teaching and coaching football. No doubt, his story of perseverance in the face of seemingly overwhelming obstacles will be an inspiring one to the next generation of gridiron athletes.
Lauren Parkinson came to Hillcrest after moving from Alabama in the seventh grade, and for six years she has been the multi-talented percussionist in “the pit” of the One Spirit, One Sound Marching Band. (She’s the one who played the theremin — that Star Trek instrument — in the “Keep Calm: We Come in Peace” field show in 2014.) She also sings in a worship group at church and has sung several times in upper school chapel. Lauren believes that creativity is one of her greatest strengths, and it would seem that others agree; she won the state level creative writing competition in Teen Talent for poetry and short story last year. Part of the secret to her success is keeping a journal with her at all times “in case I spontaneously get inspired to write,” one of her favorite pastimes.
Lauren’s traveling experiences likely serve as inspiration for her writing; some of her favorite trips have been to Mexico, Chicago, Hawaii, and Yellowstone National Park in Montana, and she already has plans to travel to New York City next year. Furthermore, she spends time in Anchorage, Alaska, every summer to visit her mom. “I love it up there,” Lauren says, “The sun never really sets in the summer, and the mountains stay snow-capped year-round. These trips have been an incredible experience, and through them God has given me a desire to travel the world when I get older. I want to visit places I’ve never been before and experience first-hand what it’s like in different corners of the world.” It’s hard to believe, then, that this adventurous wayfarer claims to be “terrified of people.” However, she keeps her social anxiety under control by remembering that God has called those who believe in Him to share the news of salvation with others. Along those same lines, her favorite Bible verse is 2 Timothy 1:7, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
Those Biblical qualities have led Lauren to become a leader among her classmates; she serves as section leader in band, is Student Body/senior class secretary/treasurer, and she has been a member of Honor Society since eighth grade. After graduation in May 2017, she wants to attend Georgetown University in Kentucky and eventually to join the Oxford Honors program, which will give her the opportunity to study for a year at Oxford University in London. Lauren plans to study English/Creative Writing, Communications, and Cinematography. She states, “I would love to have a career in the latter, or one where I could write, or both.”
Since 2012, a small blonde bundle of energy has been practically bouncing through the halls of the HCS upper school; her name is Skylar Patterson, she is a member of the National Honor Society, and she plays short stop for the Lady Cougars softball team.
Perhaps the one quality for which Skylar is best known is her seemingly never-ending reserve of school spirit, which she defines as, “Giving all your appreciation to your school and showing others how thankful you are to be there.” In fact, she says she would love to see everyone at Hillcrest get as excited as she does during school functions. Skylar can easily be spotted at pep rallies, sports events, and even some assemblies cheering, dancing, and convincing as many people as possible to join her. Some of her happiest memories at Hillcrest happened when several members of the Class of 2015 dubbed themselves “the Hype Squad” and spread their enthusiasm for cheering for the varsity boys’ basketball team at every home game to a majority of the student body. Believing in our teams, pumping up the players and the crowd, and adding to everyone’s enjoyment is what Skylar says “it’s all about.”
Outside of school Skylar’s favorite moments are spent with her friends and making memories by having the best time possible in every circumstance. Similarly, her advice to her peers at HCS is to “live it up because you only get one chance at high school, and when you get older, you’re going to want to laugh about the good times.” Even her favorite bible verse, Philippians 3:14, reflects this idea of making the most of every moment: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Skylar Patterson is an expert when it comes to living in the now, but she also has big plans for the future. After graduation, she plans to attend Hinds Community College before transferring to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in order to become a nurse.
For six years Mayowa “Mario” Asagunla’s smile has been one of the most recognizable all over the Hillcrest campus, and not just because his height (6′ 6″) makes him stand out in a crowd. Whether he’s playing a sport — Mario excels in football, basketball, baseball, and track — or speaking in chapel, Asagunla inspires people and makes friends easily. His talents also extend into the classroom; Mario’s above-average grades led to his becoming a member of Honor Society in ninth grade, and he served as chaplain last year. He is one of the first members of the HCS chapter of Mu Alpha Theta as well.
Mario believes his greatest strength is communicating and interacting with people, and anyone who has met him would definitely agree. These skills recently helped him when he attended Super Summer at Mississippi College, a camp focused on worship, community service, and building leadership skills for teens from Baptist churches across the state. Mario says this experience taught him more about showing the love of Christ without fear of embarrassment. Along those same lines, his advice to his peers is to stand and know what you believe. It is evident that Mario believes the words of his favorite Bible verse, Philippians 2:3-4, which states, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” His concern for people of all backgrounds and ages, which is based in his love for God, shows in everything he does.
As his high school career draws to a close, Mario continues to set high goals for himself. He looks forward to continuing to play sports in college, and he plans to major in mechanical engineering.