Student Spotlight – Anna Grace Browning

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.

Where Are They Now? – Dan Kyzer

Dan Kyzer, a graduate of the Class of 2005, attended Hillcrest for 5 years, from 8th through 12th grades. During his years at HCS, he played junior high football and was involved in band, indoor percussion, choir, chapel band, and drama.  Dan also played guitar, bass guitar, various percussion instruments, and the euphonium.

Just before graduating from Hillcrest, a dear friend of Kyzer’s and fellow HCS grad Jason Hobert (c/o 2004), introduced him to Dr. John Ingwerson, the classical guitar teacher at Hinds.  He began studying with Dr. Ingwerson that fall, and in two years earned a scholarship to Southern Miss.  In 2009, he began studying at The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston with maestro Eliot Fisk, one of the great guitarists of our time. After finishing his Master’s Degree there, he moved to Denton, Texas to begin doctoral studies at the University of North Texas, where he earned a Doctoral Teaching Fellowship, and he is currently finishing his dissertation. As a Teaching Fellow at UNT, Dan served as the Director of the UNT Guitar Ensemble and taught applied lessons, guitar class, and guitar pedagogy.  His wife, Abigail, has a Master’s degree in Musicology from UNT.  They met there on the first day of class and were married in 2013.  The Kyzers still live just outside of Denton, and Abigail teaches private and group piano, as well as musicianship classes, at Coppell Conservatory.

Since 2014, Kyzer has taught applied and class guitar, music fundamentals, and music appreciation at Mountain View College in Dallas. That year, he founded the MVC Guitar Festival and continue to serve as its director; this weekend event takes place every April and includes concerts, masterclasses, competitions, and a community guitar orchestra. As a solo guitarist, he holds competition prizes from the Sierra Nevada Guitar Festival, Southern Guitar Festival (Columbia, SC), and Mississippi Guitar Festival, and he has been featured as an artist and adjudicator at the Lone Star Guitar Festival and the Collin College Guitar Competition.  Dan has collaborated with such ensembles as the Boston Metro Opera, MIT Women’s Chorus, Fort Worth Opera, Orpheus Chamber Singers, UNT University Singers, and Music Theater Denton. Currently, he and Abigail are working on “Concerto No. 1 in D Major” for guitar and orchestra by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco — their first major project together.

When asked what advice he would give to current and future HCS grads, Dan states the following: “Just as you practice a sport, an instrument, or an art, practice love and empathy. You will never know the influence your words and actions have and what your peers will remember when they think of you. Every time we can show love and caring, our lives are infinitely better than when we show bitterness, spite, and hate. These are the things that matter twelve years out of high school, far more than popularity, success, grades, and how much fun you had. On a more practical note, don’t worry if you don’t get into an Ivy League school or even to your second or third college choice. Also, if you don’t know what you want to do right after high school, don’t spend $40k (or even $10k) a year in tuition trying to figure it out. Determination and relentless curiosity — these are qualities that will help you make a plan to succeed both in your career and in life. They are just as important as the credentials you will surely earn from any college, whether you end up at Hinds, Ole Miss, or Harvard.”

“Coming Attractions”

We have another busy week here at Hillcrest, so we thought you parents might appreciate an update!

First, please don’t forget the annual Patrons’ — that’s you, parents and guardians! — Meeting in the high school gym beginning at 6:30 tonight.  We are more than half way finished with this school year, so tonight’s meeting is an important time to catch up on several issues.  It will feature briefings from the Board, previews of an upcoming marketing campaign and our next year’s enrollment push, and the unveiling of our school’s new smartphone app.  Not to mention, our Cougar cheerleaders and the One Spirit One Sound band will perform, and that is always a treat!

Along with the meeting, the Uniform Resale Store is open today from 3:00 to 6:00 PM in the junior high building; it’s a sometimes aggravating fact that children tend to grow, so if you have or need any new sizes to finish the school year, this is the perfect opportunity to take care of that.

Then, tomorrow night is Senior Night for the basketball season.  Please come support our Cougars on the court as they face off against Winston here at home.  It will also be a bittersweet night as we spotlight and bid farewell to our senior team members; the varsity girls will be featured first, approximately around 6:00 PM.

Also this week: The high school Envirothon team will compete Wednesday, and they’re on a mission to bring the state trophy back to Hillcrest.  On Thursday the JV basketball teams will miss school in order to participate in a tournament at Parklane.  Finally, the varsity basketball teams will play at PCS on Friday beginning at 6:00 PM.

One more upcoming event to note… Please be in prayer for and spread the word about our first Open House next week — February 15th from 8:00 AM to Noon — for prospective students in grades K3 through 6th.  HCS has so much to offer to families in the surrounding communities and beyond, and we want to share not only our outstanding academic and athletics programs, but more importantly, the love of our Savior with as many children as possible.  Cougar families, please help by telling those who need us that they have a home at Hillcrest.

Asagunla Signs with Warriors

Congratulations to senior Mayowa “Mario” Asagunla who participated in National Signing Day, one of the most celebrated days each year for college football fans.  Mario signed his letter of intent, committing to East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi, and he will play football for the Warriors.

Mario with his mother, Mary, and head football coach / athletic director Todd Montgomery

Your Cougar family is so proud of you, Mario!!

Student Spotlight – Thomas Cain, Jr.

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.