There is a very recognizable laugh that can often be heard throughout the upper school halls at Hillcrest, and almost everyone knows that it belongs to senior Brycelynn Kelly. In her fifth and final year of attendance at Hillcrest, Brycelynn is not only known for her laugh; she also looks for the good in any and every situation. She believes her other strengths are forgiving and seeing the good in people.
Having attended public schools in the past, Brycelynn said she wasn’t sure what to expect when she transferred to Hillcrest. “I was used to being an outcast because I was more well-spoken than most of my classmates, but once I came to Hillcrest, I felt like I belonged. The relationships that I have with my teachers are so genuine and real; it’s rare to find teachers who care about their students anymore.” Outside of class, Brycelynn is a member of the yearbook staff and the archery and tennis teams; she also participates in field events for track. When she’s not at school or at work, Brycelynn enjoys going out with family and friends and being with her dogs: Mufassa, Nala, and Simba. To truly relax, however, she says there is nothing better than “sitting in my room and knitting while I’m listening to music.”
Brycelynn would advise her peers and students in younger classes not to base their decisions, big or small, on what your friends are doing because their decision is based on what’s best for them, not for you. She further wants to tell people to keep God in their lives always because at the end of every day, he is all you truly have. This advice is perfectly in line with the words of her favorite Bible verse, 1 Peter 5:7, which states, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Brycelynn loves this verse because as she matures, she realizes that every decision she makes will shape her future, and that thought causes a great deal of stress. She says, “When I read that verse, it just reassures me that God has a plan in his hands for me, and he would never put anything on me that I can’t bear.” This wise outlook will help her as she leaves Hillcrest in May to attend Holmes Community College and then Mississippi State; she plans to major in Accounting and minor in Journalism.
Anna Tilghman knows what it feels like to be “the new girl,” so she makes an effort to get along with everyone with whom she crosses paths. She is also driven to do this by 1 Corinthians 16:14, her favorite Bible verse, which states, ” Let all that you do be done in love.” Anna came to Hillcrest in her 9th-grade year, and her easy-going nature and bright smile helped her make friends easily. Furthermore, she joined ranks with the One Spirit One Sound band, giving her a sense of belonging to the HCS family almost immediately; now in her senior year, Anna is the trombone section leader.
Outside of school, Anna enjoys being with her family and friends, especially when she can travel with them. One of her favorite memories from her time at HCS happened when the band made the long bus ride to Orlando last year, and then marched in a parade at Disney World as part of the park’s Performing Arts Series. Not only was it an honor for the band as a whole, but it was extra special to Anna because her best friends were there with her, along with her two favorite teachers, who happen to be “band moms” as well. Anna says that Mrs. Browning and Mrs. Massey “are always there for you. They’re outgoing and can make you laugh; they’re the ‘Dynamic Duo’.” Anna also counts the band’s taking top honors at the Copiah Marching Festival in 2016 for the third year in a row as an important memory; she says, “I’ll never forget the feeling, hearing that we won overall again.”
As her high school years draw to a close, Anna advises her classmates and lower classmen to “keep God first in everything, and you will be successful in all that you do.” These wise words will no doubt help her as she attends Hinds Community College next year, and then goes to Mississippi College in order to major in pre-med.
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.