Alumni Stories

Alumni Stories

Hill Country endeavors to prepare students to become Christ-like leaders in their schools, churches, communities, families, and vocations. Our alumni serve in fields as diverse as law, the military, medicine, education, and business, and many of our alumni have returned to join our faculty or coaching staff. On a regular basis, alumni contact us to thank us for not only providing them with an excellent education but also for preparing them well for college and for life.

If you are a member of the Hill Country alumni community, we would love to hear from you and find out where life’s journey has taken you. Please take a moment to tell us a little more about that journey here.


  • Garrick Gillespie
    Garrick Gillespie
    Class of 2002
  • Andi (Bandow) Hudson
    Andi (Bandow) Hudson
    Class of 2014
  • Cody McCourt
    Cody McCourt
    Class of 2012
  • Ryan Holt
    Ryan Holt
    Class of 2003
  • Amelia (Whitlock) McCracken
    Amelia (Whitlock) McCracken
    Class of 2006
  • Will Dowd
    Will Dowd
    Class of 2003
  • Megan (Holt) Fair
    Megan (Holt) Fair
    Class of 2004
  • Jessica Mocha
    Jessica Mocha
    Class of 2013
  • Bailey (Barnes) Jackson
    Bailey (Barnes) Jackson
    Class of 2009
  • Courtney (Bishop) Johnson
    Courtney (Bishop) Johnson
    Class of 2007
  • Ashley Read
    Ashley Read
    Class of 2016
  • Jared Neusch
    Jared Neusch
    Class of 2004
  • Paige Glace
    Paige Glace
    Class of 2018
  • Ryan Long
    Ryan Long
    Class of 2016
  • Sara Jackson
    Sara Jackson
    Class of 2013
  • Michael Holt
    Michael Holt
    Class of 2006
  • Cory Vinlove
    Cory Vinlove
    Class of 2008
  • McKenna Dallmeyer
    McKenna Dallmeyer
    Class of 2018
  • Noah Wallace
    Noah Wallace
    Class of 2016
  • Caroline (Janssen) Lengyel
    Caroline (Janssen) Lengyel
    Class of 2010

Josh Andrews

Josh Andrews Alumnus 2011

 

 

Joyce Martin

Joyce Martin Parent of Alumni 2013 and 2017

 

 

Macey Todd

Macey Todd Alumna 2018

 

 

Ashley Gutierrez

Ashley Gutierrez Alumna 2001

 

 

Chloe Todd Alumna 2017

 

 

Jacob Belloni Alumnus 2018

 

 

FredericksonKatie

Katie Fredrickson Alumna 2004

 

 

lychner

Rachel Lychner Alumna 2018

 

 

Luttrell_crop

Rachel Luttrell Alumna 2008

 

 

Nathan Howard Alumnus 2016

 

 

Natalie Wedgeworth Parent of Alumni 2015 and 2016

 

 

Seth Jackson Alumnus 2016

 

 

Christian Senior

Christian Senior Alumnus 2017

 

 

Lisa Pantoja

Lisa Pantoja Parent of Alumnus 2013

 

 

Sara Jackson

Sara Jackson Alumna 2013

 

 

Holly Wedgeworth

Holly Wedgeworth Alumna 2016

 

 

Elijah Basset

Elijah Bassett Alumnus 2017

 

 

Sarah Jane Farrell Alumna 2016

 

 

Christi Rabb

Christi Rabb Alumna 2004

 

 

Stacy Aannestad

Stacy Aannestad Parent of Alumnus 2011

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Garrick Gillespie
Class of 2002

Ever wondered where Ebola, anthrax, E. coli, COVID-19, and Swine Flu samples go? And when white powder is found on an envelope, who tests the potentially-lethal contents? If you’re Garrick Gillespie ‘02, you suit up, sit down behind the microscope, and settle in for a typical day of work.

After graduating from Hill Country, Garrick attended Texas A&M University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cell Biology. Now a biosafety officer for the Texas Department of State Health Services, Garrick oversees all microbiological work at the Austin lab. He also assists multiple labs in safety planning, performance, and response to the unique needs they face processing various pathogen samples.

“I was very fortunate to go into my field of study and have had some amazing experiences,” says Garrick. “In 2009, I was able to work on the Swine Flu Pandemic. I’ve been able to work in several public health outbreaks such as West Nile virus, measles, mumps, E. coli, Zika virus, and testing white powder letters for unknown substances. I have stayed with the public health lab here in Austin in various roles, but mostly working as a microbiologist with everything from tuberculosis and E. coli to anthrax and Ebola. We handle some interesting organisms, but the safety and training of our staff is honestly world-class. Texas has some outstanding Public Health professionals!”

Although he can process and analyze dangerous and highly-infectious diseases without breaking a sweat, Garrick remembers the days of Hill Country gridiron sweat on the football field. “We started as a flag football team in a church league,” says Garrick. “Since this was a church league, it was made up of grown men, some of whom had played college football. They were bigger, stronger, and sometimes faster. Senior year however, we did pretty well, finishing fairly high overall. I want to say we only lost two games that year. It was a really good experience to work that hard for four years and finish that struggle with a sense of earning something you almost hadn’t thought possible. Much thanks to Coach Hudgens and Coach Horne for putting us through some refinement by Texas summer heat, [helping] us accomplish holding our own against some formidable competition!”

Garrick recalled the early days of Hill Country from an educational standpoint, remarking how he was prepared for the future with college and his career just over the horizon. “The level of education we received, I think, became more apparent to me in college,” says Garrick. “Working with other students from a wide variety of backgrounds allowed me to appreciate some of the extra effort we were forced to put forth at Hill Country. I believe the education gave us a bit of a head start in college and smoothed out some potential learning curves with which others had to navigate. And the experience we had helped us to be as foundationally solid as possible to face the challenges of life – in college and beyond. We were fortunate to have incredible teachers who invested in our education but also our lives in building us up as strong men and women. The classmates I had and their parents and families were also some of the best people I could have asked to be around in high school. Simply being immersed in that environment allowed me to have a strong core of education, faith, responsibility, and ethics which has benefited my personal life as well as career. The coaches, teachers, and staff at Hill Country truly did have an immense and positive impact on my life, and I am very grateful for their investment in us.”

Andi (Bandow) Hudson
Class of 2014

Andi (Bandow) Hudson ’14 likely feels a lot like Elsa from Disney’s Frozen 2 when the princess sings the song, “Into the Unknown”. As COVID-19 continues to be the topic of the day without showing any signs of abating, Andi is charging ahead, studying to become a physician’s assistant (PA).

The former Hill Country Knight graduated from Hardin-Simmons University in 2018 with a degree in Athletic Training. She now finds herself in her clinical year of Hardin-Simmons University PA school, traveling the state for rotations and heading into a career field that is the topic of nearly every conversation around the world.

From an early age, Andi believed God called her to minister to others through her work. “During undergrad, athletic training students were required to shadow different health professionals, and this is how I met a physician assistant,” says Andi. “He was an incredible man who taught me a lot about this field of medicine. His excitement and passion for his work and his patients made me realize I wanted the same excitement and passion in my future career. I began working as a medical scribe in the emergency department, which reinforced my decision to pursue a career as a PA. Leaving my job as a scribe was incredibly difficult, but PA school has been so rewarding thus far, and I can clearly see God’s plan unfolding. I wanted to practice medicine while also forming relationships with and caring for people from all walks of life.”

Becoming a PA requires a tremendous amount of dedication, courage, and effort, but Andi says she was prepared in many ways before beginning her undergrad. “Hill Country changed the trajectory of my life, [it] is more than education; it is a holistic experience of academic, emotional, and spiritual growth for the students. Students at Hill Country are not seen as numbers, but rather each of them [is] cared for individually and – again – holistically. I will never forget the lessons I learned from my teachers, my coaches, my counselors, and other members of the Hill Country staff during my time there. By investing in students and preparing them for all of life’s battles, Hill Country changes the trajectory of student’s lives; the several small victories and lessons learned gradually develop into a well-rounded student who is motivated to contribute more goodness into their world. Students leave Hill Country ready to impact others in the way they were impacted at this school.”

Andi was also kind enough to share one of her most cherished memories from her time at Hill Country. “For example, senior prom was a special time for many reasons but had another added significance for me personally,” says Andi. “Coach Pete Craycroft agreed to do the parent-child dance with me at prom. He has always been a father-figure for me, and we had many discussions about life throughout my time at Hill Country. He counseled me through challenging times and encouraged me through moments of victory. Coach Craycroft is one of the many people who made such an incredible impact on me, so having the opportunity to do the dance with him at prom was an incredible blessing. I will never forget that dance.”

As she gets closer to becoming a PA, Andi enjoys combatting a rigorous rotation schedule by relaxing with her husband, Mitchel, and their dogs on a small, quiet plot of land outside of Abilene, Texas.

Cody McCourt
Class of 2012

The endurance one learns by playing high school basketball and running cross country can produce dividends years down the road. Although Cody McCourt ‘12 isn’t lacing up his sneakers and shooting threes in a Knight’s uniform anymore, he’s certainly getting a workout with a toddler in the house.

Cody is a successful account manager at Dell Technologies; he sells Dell products to businesses in Tennessee and still leans on experiences and lessons learned from his time at Hill Country. “Every year, the trip to the Dominican Republic was by far the most memorable and life-giving event,” said Cody. “I still haven’t forgotten my three trips with my classmates and teachers. Hill Country provided a great base [for] not only my education but also my faith. Hill Country was able to benefit me both in the school and outside of it. In school, I learned valuable strategies for retaining and digesting new information. Outside of it, Hill Country helped teach me how to be a better person, leader, and son.”

Having completed most of his coursework from the University of Texas, Cody graduated from Texas State University with a degree in finance and began his career with Dell two weeks after he received his diploma. Cody and his wife live in Cedar Park and are enjoying every moment as they raise their daughter, Reese. In addition to his many responsibilities at work and home, Cody also donates his time as a member of Hill Country’s Alumni Advisory Committee.

Ryan Holt
Class of 2003

“A Christian education is quickly becoming one of the few ways to ensure that your children are exposed to absolute truth.”

When you picture an excellent trial lawyer, who comes to mind? Abraham Lincoln? Thurgood Marshall? Maybe Atticus Finch? If you find yourself in the Columbia, South Carolina area and need legal advice, you might want to give 2003 Hill Country graduate, Ryan Holt, a phone call.

Although he says legal trials are becoming rare these days, Ryan still finds them to be the most fulfilling part of his work. “I practice largely in the area of civil defense,” says Ryan. “So, my clients are typically businesses who are being sued by someone who claims they were injured because of the business.” Ryan’s clients include hotels, retailers, restaurants, and grocers, while also litigating in additional areas such as transportation, commercial, construction defect, and product liability.

Before becoming a successful lawyer, Ryan was learning the writing ropes as a Hill Country student – which would be very handy later on in his legal career. “My humanities education required lengthy, intensive research and writing,” says Ryan. “I learned to write at Hill Country. Patricia Brunson’s English instruction was instrumental in teaching me how to write. Her drama class probably also helped me hone the abilities necessary to work as a trial attorney. Kim Gardiner (Hunt) was also instrumental in teaching me the logic skills necessary for law school. A Christian education is quickly becoming one of the few ways to ensure that your children are exposed to absolute truth.” Ryan also served as student council secretary in his junior year, student body president his senior year, as well as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Vellum. Ryan also completed and published a thorough history of the beginning of Hill Country Christian School titled A Scholastic Legacy: The History of Hill Country Christian School of Austin.

In addition to recounting various memories of life at Hill Country, including chapel rehearsals and grilled cheese sandwiches, Ryan cited one particularly unforgettable Tuesday. “My junior English teacher (American Literature) was Barbara Jackson,” says Ryan. “She had a tradition of beginning the class with the singing of a different hymn. Our hymn that Tuesday morning was ‘I Need Thee Every Hour.’ After we sang it and prayed, she told us what had happened.” That morning was Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

After graduating from Hill Country, Ryan went on to receive his B.A. from the University of South Carolina in 2006, majoring in Political Science and minoring in History. Ryan then went on to receive his J.D. in 2009. As a transition from higher education to private practice, Ryan worked as a judicial law clerk for a circuit judge. “I spent every day with a judge who had been a lawyer for 30 years and had the privilege of watching 12 civil trials and 12 criminal trials ranging from soft tissue car wrecks to a death penalty case,” says Ryan. In 2010, Ryan joined the firm he practices with today. “I became a shareholder in the firm a couple of years ago and am learning what it is like to run a business,” says Ryan. “I’ve had the opportunity to try almost a dozen cases and argue before our state’s Court of Appeals.”

In 2016, Ryan ran in the Republican primary for the 69th District of the South Carolina House of Representatives. “Fortunately, the Lord used that opportunity to identify an idol of politics in my life that had consumed my identity,” says Ryan. “Today, I am using the time once dedicated to politics to become more involved in my church, serving as a teacher of a couples Sunday School class at my church and now as chairman of our deacon board.”

Ryan, his wife Jill, and their two daughters are enjoying life in South Carolina, living just a few hours from the beach in one direction, and mountains in the other direction. And, like most alumni who live out of state, Ryan had the following to say: “I think most of all I miss the Tex-Mex food. I still eat Mexican food, but I try not to even compare it to Austin’s.”

Amelia (Whitlock) McCracken
Class of 2006

Starting your own company is not for the fainthearted. The experience and dedication it takes to be successful in a venture that eats most alive are unquantifiable. Meet Hill Country alumna Amelia (Whitlock) McCracken ’06. She’s beating the odds and seeing success with a unique business model and company that she built from the ground up.

Before starting multiple businesses, Amelia was a Knight – playing in powderpuff football games, showing off her artistic abilities in art class, competing in track and field, and building rockets in rocket club. “All of our teachers and coaches had such a significant impact on all of us, and we truly bonded – Mrs. Brunson, Mr. Baptiste, Mr. Horvath, etc.,” says Amelia, recounting fond memories of her time at Hill Country.

After graduating from Hill Country in 2006, Amelia headed down the road to Texas A&M University, where she majored in University Studies and minored in creative studies and art history. Working as a curator and communications specialist in the Texas A&M museum system and interning as a photographer at Disney World gave Amelia experiences that she would soon lean on heavily. Right before she received her degree from Texas A&M, Amelia started her first business. “I started a wedding business doing custom cakes, photography, and invitations,” says Amelia. “I ran my wedding business for about four years, but I really missed having weekends. I decided to get an eight to five job so that my schedule would match with my husband and friends.”

After also becoming the graphic designer for Messina Hof Winery, life threw Amelia and her husband, Josh, quite the surprise. “After three years, my life flipped again when we got a surprise call from our adoption agency while I was at work,” says Amelia. “They literally told us to come to the hospital and meet our newborn son.”

Soon after, Amelia left her job to stay home and care for their son, Kalvin. However, in 2018, the desire to start another business became too great to hold back, and Amelia started Ment Marketing and Creative Services. “It combines my passions [in] marketing and mentorship,” says Amelia. “I hire local, creative college students to help them build their portfolios and gain real-world experience before they graduate. My students love it because they get a paying, super-flexible job that actually helps them in their future careers.” Ment offers its clients everything from graphic and web design to videography and branding services.

As if being a mom, wife, and business owner wasn’t enough, Amelia founded Women Entrepreneurs Bryan/College Station (WE BCS) along with her friend, Marie Anne Holland. WE BCS helps women in the Bryan/College Station area overcome challenges relating to starting and growing their businesses through education and community building.

Will Dowd
Class of 2003

Graduate from Hill Country – check.

Travel the world and fly over 3,000 hours in nine different aircraft (including the F-16, C-17, and AC-130W) – check.

Brief multiple four-star generals on tactics, techniques, and procedures – check.

Receive Top Flyer, Top Paper, and Distinguished Graduate awards from the United States Air Force Weapons School – check.

From the number of missions he’s flown and variety of planes he’s piloted to the counsel he’s shared with generals and congressional decision-makers, Major Will “Doc” Dowd, United States Air Force, might seem like a fictional character from a Tom Clancy novel. While his accomplishments are far from fiction, his career in the Air Force has taken him places and given him experiences that most can’t fully comprehend.

Major Dowd, now Chief of Strategic Capabilities and Innovation for the United States Air Force, has been an officer in the USAF for almost 13 years and flown for 12 of them. He has lived in Texas, Oklahoma, Japan, Washington, and currently resides in Hawaii with his wife Jenn and daughters Hailey (3) and Claire (1). “Okinawa was probably my favorite place to live,” says Dowd. “Rich culture, amazing food, and crystal clear water for diving and snorkeling. It was a place steeped in history, both militarily and culturally, not to mention a place of immense strategic importance to both the United States, Japan, and Korea. Spokane, Washington, is a gorgeous town, and my family fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. Winter skiing, hiking, fishing, and hunting were all accessible within about a 30-minute drive. Now I live in Hawaii, which is obviously an amazing place, and a great location to raise a family.”

After graduating from Hill Country in 2003, Major Dowd attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in English and Composition degree, followed by a Master of Science in Entrepreneurship and Business Development from Oklahoma State University. “College was busy,” says Dowd. “Between being a full-time student, working full time, and doing Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), I didn’t have time for frivolities. However, I felt prepared because I knew how to prioritize my time. Hill Country always kept me busy (which was good!), so I adapted quite well to a stressful college life. Coach Horne took me under his wing as I pursued scholarships to the Air Force Academy and ROTC at UT (I received both), and I’ll never forget his mentorship, leadership, and encouragement that enabled me to lead a (so far) entertaining and fulfilling career in the Armed Forces.”

Before reaching a seemingly-endless number of milestones, Major Dowd was preparing for a life of accomplishment with the help of teachers and coaches such as Mr. Baptiste, Mr. Horne, and Mrs. Jackson. “Hill Country prepared me for a life that has surprisingly involved a large amount of studying, writing, briefing, and instructing,” says Dowd. “Between learning how to operate and maintain five different aircraft, attending both Undergraduate Pilot Training and Weapons School as well as instructing at both, academics have always been a large part of my career. I have always felt secure in my study habits to pass countless exams, prepare briefings for military and congressional decision makers, and [learn] from foreign partners and allies. 

Major Dowd has also achieved Subject Matter Expert for man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and has briefed numerous NATO allies and American units on the capabilities and countertactics. In his role as Chief of Strategic Capabilities and Innovation, Dowd helps develop future capabilities by working with industry partners to protect and defend United States territories, troops, interests, and allies.

Megan (Holt) Fair
Class of 2004

Megan (Holt) Fair ’04 is quite busy these days! Not only is she a mom and a wife, but she also serves as marketing director for Covenant Day School in Matthews, North Carolina.

After graduating from Hill Country, Megan went on to attend Baylor University, graduating as a Journalism major with a public relations focus in only three years. But a bachelor’s wasn’t enough for her, so Megan moved to the east coast and earned her Master’s Degree in Mass Communication from the University of South Carolina in 2009.

“I spent a couple of years working in the collegiate environment, and really developed a love for education,” says Megan. “Being able to work in Christian education [is] a bonus. I have wonderful memories from Hill Country, and being at a school that shares a similar mission is fun.”

Megan and her husband, Sanchez, have two boys – Micah and Julian. The Fairs enjoy being close to both the mountains and the ocean as North Carolina residents. Megan misses her tight-knit community in Austin and, as almost all of our out-of-state alumni report, had the following to say: “I really miss Texas BBQ.”

Jessica Mocha
Class of 2013

In many ways, Woodbridge, Virginia, is a lot like Austin. It’s fast-paced, full of diversity, and also has a Hill Country graduate making her mark on the city. 

Seven years after receiving her Hill Country diploma, Jessica Mocha ‘13 is making her way in the DC suburb as a technical writer. After her years at James Madison University, where she majored in English, Jessica worked in both the healthcare and international trade industries before she found what she calls, “my place,” at CharityEngine. “CharityEngine is a software company that specializes in providing non-profits the equipment they need to continue their great work, such as Wounded Warriors,” says Jessica. 

Among the many memories Jessica has from her time at Hill Country (including some hilarious annual trips to the high school retreat with friends), she has fond memories of class with Candy Hechel. “Mrs. Hechel’s class prepared me for college by having Socratic discussions. [They] gave me the courage to speak about topics that I had read about in-depth. Almost all of my classes in college required this skill.”

Jessica is loving life on the east coast but wants everyone to know that the Tex-Mex cuisine just isn’t the same there as it is back in Austin. 

Bailey (Barnes) Jackson
Class of 2009

It’s been a few years since she was sitting in Candy Hechel’s homeroom, receiving tips about being successful and managing all the new norms when heading off to college. If educational degrees are any measure of success, then we’d say Bailey (Barnes) Jackson ‘09, Ph.D., was paying attention to Mrs. Hechel.

After graduating from Hill Country, Bailey attended the University of Arkansas, where she studied mechanical engineering. She then went on to receive her Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where she studied materials and mechanical engineering with a research emphasis on nanotechnology tissue engineering of bone scaffolds for bone regeneration. 

While recounting the things she misses and remembers about living in Austin, Bailey expressed a longing for Austin coffee shops and had the following to say about Hill Country: “Hill Country is a great place to go to school. The teachers really care about the students and get to know everyone personally. Sometimes I wondered if I would find more people like me at a bigger school, but the thing with having such a close-knit grade is that your classmates are almost like your siblings [and] you spend so much time with people who are very different from you. Overall I think the biggest benefits were being able to be a part of so many different things, like sports and other programs and activities.”

Now a resident of Little Rock, Arkansas, Bailey is currently working on material science research in the field of Synthetic Cannabinoid Metabolism at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. When not in the lab utilizing the latest technology, such as the X-ray Diffraction System (XRD), Bailey likes to spend quality time with her husband, their three dogs, and two cats. 

Courtney (Bishop) Johnson
Class of 2007

When you’re part of the team that ensures 25,000 people at American Airlines receive their paychecks, a lot is riding on you executing every maneuver correctly. Voted “Friendliest in Class” by her classmates in 2007, Courtney (Bishop) Johnson ‘07 takes it all in stride as her high-stakes payroll career has her flying high at one of the largest airlines in the world.

The Hill Country graduate didn’t initially envision such a career taking shape when she received her high school diploma in 2007. After graduation, Courtney made her way to Galveston, Texas, where she studied Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston. After spending seven years on the coast, Courtney decided it was time for a change, so she packed up and moved to Dallas, where she now resides. 

“While we all imagine life will be executed from a well-thought-out plan, does it ever really happen that way?” asks Courtney, reflecting on the last decade. “Through years of hard work, long days and nights, countless flights, and the drive to reach each challenge, I have worked my way up from a simple data clerk to a payroll software analyst and trainer. I travel to beautiful cities to train airport management and work with a star-studded team of leaders, the hardest workers, and innovative thinkers.” Courtney travels so often that even her dog has an (unofficial) passport. 

When asked to reflect on life at Hill Country, Courtney was happy to oblige. “The first challenges I ever faced were in school, pulling me out of my comfort zones and forcing me to do what I thought I never could,” says Courtney. “It wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you that much. But teachers at Hill Country are dedicated to identifying the strengths and even the weaknesses within each of us, to help us learn how to hone in on them and improve or refine. They help nurture those intangible qualities that we each possess. It is so very clear that they care about students, their well being, their success, and [their] future. Education aside – while worth highly mentioning – I gained from my years [a] valuable wealth of self-awareness of what I could offer and what I could learn down the road. Hill Country is a remarkable institution and has grown so much in the last decade… I am proud to be an alumna.”

Ashley Read
Class of 2016

Capturing important moments in the lives of others is nothing new for Ashley Read ’16. She took her experience in Yearbook at Hill Country with her to Kansas State University in the fall of 2016, and now in her senior year, serves as Editor-in-Chief of Royal Purple, Kansas State University’s award-winning yearbook.

“This is my second year as Editor-in-Chief, and my third year on staff,” says Ashley. “My first year, I was given the opportunity to be the design editor—a huge deal being a new staffer. During my years on staff, we have received many awards both as a staff and as individuals. The book’s major awards are 3rd place 2018 Best Yearbook Cover, the 2018 All-Kansas Award, the 2018 Pacemaker Award, second place 2019 Best Yearbook Cover, and Finalist for the 2019 Pacemaker Award.”

During her senior year at Hill Country, Ashley’s design portfolio was awarded 2nd place by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. “Ashley is one of the most influential staff members we have ever had,” says John Horvath, long-time Hill Country Yearbook advisor. “She was instrumental in putting our yearbook on the map. It would be impossible to overstate her impact on our yearbook program.”

One of her fondest memories of her time at Hill Country was getting a 1st place medal in the 4×400 meter relay. It was during her senior year in her last race as a Knight. “Coach Thurman and Coach Greer were determined to get me a 1st place medal,” says Ashley. “After I insisted on participating in the sprinter run off and placing second out of all the sprinters, the coaches realized maybe I wasn’t a long-distance runner after all. They decided to put me, a long-distance runner, in all three of the relays for the first time at the district meet. After passing district, we went to regionals and on to state. At state, we ran the best races we could, and I finally got my 1st place medal.”

The soon-to-be Kansas State graduate has enjoyed the last few years living north of Texas. “Moving to Kansas was definitely a huge change—not just moving from a warm place to a very cold one but also moving from a large city to a very small one,” says Ashley. “I was also not used to having friends and people around me who may not necessarily be Christians. Hill Country provided a strong foundation in my Christian faith, so I was able to communicate with those people and befriend them in a godly way. My strong foundation allowed me to listen to and understand others’ beliefs but not allow them to sway my own. Now I can say that my faith is stronger than ever before, and it’s due to the relationships and learning I received from Hill Country. I know that I can contact any of my past teachers and coaches from Hill Country if I need anything, and that’s a great thing to have when you move far away from home.”

Jared Neusch
Class of 2004

West Sussex is quite different from Austin. Although British tea isn’t exactly the same as Texas tea, Jared Neusch ’04 and his family have embraced change and now call England home.

After graduating from Hill Country in 2004, Jared enrolled at Texas A&M, majoring in speech communications and minoring in anthropology. Having received his undergrad degree from A&M, Jared went on to work for a ministry school in California, where he oversaw a department and taught Bible classes. He later received his Master’s of Divinity from A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary in 2017—all while working full-time and chasing a toddler around the house. Jared and his wife, Kezia, have been married for seven years and are raising two children; a two-year-old and a four-year-old as Jared completes his Ph.D. in New Testament Biblical Studies, specializing on the third and fourth chapters of Paul’s letters to the Galatians.

He may be a few years and a few thousand miles removed from his life at Hill Country, but Jared says the memories are still vivid. “I’ll never forget mounting an incredible comeback to beat Waldorf in basketball that earned [our] team a spot in a playoff tiebreaker,” says Jared. “I [also] remember my senior year, being a part of the cross-country team, and winning the state championship.”

Jared is close to achieving one of the highest accolades in higher education and is familiar with the skills and hard work it takes to pursue such a degree. He credits his time at Hill Country for laying the groundwork for his post-graduate pursuits. “Having logged at least a few hours of public speaking time during junior high and high school, I was really well prepared for public speaking classes at college,” says Jared. “I have also benefited from the classical education we received (Latin, logic, rhetoric, etc.), and I can see this playing into my current Ph.D. work. It really is a quality institution. Being in a relatively smaller environment with such high-quality academics and great sports programs has definitely been a benefit for me in the years during and following [my time at] Hill Country.”

Jared and his family love their new life “across the pond” and enjoy everything from new foods to the changes of scenery—particularly the picturesque rolling green hills, sheep, and country cottages.

Paige Glace
Class of 2018

As a Baylor University sophomore, Paige Glace ’18 has been busy since she received her diploma in May of 2018. In addition to her studies, involvement in her sorority, and attending all the football, volleyball and intramural games she can, Paige spends much of her time in the Baylor Student Senate. She sits on the Campus Improvements & Affairs committee, where she writes funding allocations, hears bill proposals, and votes on various campus measures.

“[In committee] we write bills and allocations for issues on campus,” says Paige. “So far this semester, my committee has tackled issues concerning the addition of new bike racks around campus, energy conservation in campus buildings, and we are currently in discussion about more improvements we can make around campus. As a senator, I have worked with organizations to acquire funding for events and [currently] have a few resolutions on the way!”

Paige welcomed the challenge of moving from Austin to a brand new environment. “Moving from Hill Country to a college atmosphere was a blast,” she says. “I loved how Hill Country set us up for academic excellence in college through rigorous courses! Moving to a brand new environment is always a challenge, but I have enjoyed it thoroughly. Hill Country is especially good at teaching you how to create good relationships with your professors, which has allowed me to succeed in even my most difficult classes.”

Also a member of the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, Paige is majoring in political science within the Baylor Honors College. Upon graduating, Paige plans to work in the federal government.

Ryan Long
Class of 2016

You have probably never been in the copilot seat, helping fly the governor of Indiana around the state. You likely have never had the opportunity to land a plane on the top of a mountain. If you talk to Ryan Long ‘16, that’s just a typical Tuesday. Long is entering his senior year at Purdue University, majoring in Professional Flight Technology. He is spending more and more time in the air these days as a trainee himself, and as a flight instructor for the university. 

“Once I started college, I quickly realized the skills I received from Hill Country made me stand out from my peers,” says Ryan. “The most relevant one I saw right away was my ability to outline, write, and edit research papers. While many people in my classes struggled through these assignments, not knowing how to research or structure their papers, the skills I learned at Hill Country through my many English Classes and Senior Thesis served me well. Hill Country teachers do an incredible job at challenging and guiding students in their writing to make sure it is the absolute best quality it can be. This practice has been outstanding through my time in college, making writing effortless.”

“Through many classes and as President of Purdue Aviation Ambassadors, I have been challenged with public speaking opportunities time and time again,” he says. While public speaking seems to be a subject many struggle with through college, the practice I got at Hill Country through Debate class, English, Senior thesis and club involvement has taught me how to present and defend my research or ideas in front of an audience confidently and clearly.”

Ryan encourages, “If anyone were considering attending Hill Country Christian, I would highly advise them to give it a try. Hill Country is truly a place where each student is encouraged to grow in their knowledge, beliefs, values, and skills. In my experience at Hill Country, students receive a level of attention most schools cannot offer. All of the teachers, coaches, staff, and students alike at Hill Country listen and care, creating an atmosphere where students are not numbers. I left Hill Country prepared for college, with lifelong friends, and knowing what direction I wanted my life to take. I am happy I chose Hill Country for High School because I don’t think I could have found as many opportunities or experiences as unique anywhere else!”

As a member and former president of Purdue Aviation Ambassadors, Ryan travels across the country, recruiting others to the aviation program. He enjoys life in the midwest but would like to make his way back to Texas. “I miss the warmer weather of Texas, my family and so many other things about living there,” he says. “I never realized what I appreciated about Texas until I left. With that being said, Purdue and the Midwest both have their advantages and disadvantages, but overall I am convinced Austin is one of the most special cities in the world and I plan to find myself back there one day! No state compares to Texas!”

In the spring, Ryan will hone his skills in the university’s new Airbus A320 simulator. He will pilot a multi-stop, cross-country flight as his final exam before graduation, after which he plans to become a corporate pilot. As he looks back on his final summer as a college student, Ryan recounts the details of taking off from Indianapolis International Airport. “Pushing the thrust levers up on the runway in Indianapolis with airliners waiting behind me, getting pulled back in my seat by the force of the engines, then climbing out over the sea of flickering city lights was the best way I could have possibly ended the summer.”

Sara Jackson
Class of 2013

It’s been a while since her class taught Mrs. Hechel how to hip hop dance, and while she’s more into data science now, we are glad alumna Sara Jackson ‘13 still makes time to visit her alma mater. She was very active here not only as a student but also as a member of the volleyball, cross country, basketball, and track teams.

After graduating from Hill Country, Sara traveled to the east coast for college at Furman University, where she says she was challenged in her faith, which resulted in growth. “I was an assistant R.A. for freshman for two years, and I learned a lot about myself, as well as how to help others through their struggles and adjust to college life,” she says. “I was often asked by friends to help edit their papers, and the Hill Country thesis really prepared me for the Business Block in which three other students and I had to jointly write a 50-page report about a company and present our findings. This task was not nearly as hard for me as it was for some of my peers due to the number of papers I wrote and speeches I made at Hill Country.” Upon graduating from college, the North Carolina resident launched her career as a data analyst for one of the world’s largest technology conglomerates. She not only fulfills her own responsibilities but also trains new analysts who join her team. 

Sara frequently comes back to Austin to visit family and makes a point to visit campus whenever she can. “What I love about Hill Country the most is that you’re taught how to defend and live out your faith, and you’re treated like family,” she says. “The teachers really care about you, want to pour into you and see you grow both academically and spiritually. They want to hear about your day – from the small things to the big things. Hill Country was a second home for me.”

Michael Holt
Class of 2006

HILL COUNTRY ALUM IS PLAYING FOR KEEPS
Interview and Article by Jake Strubhar – Alumni Relations Coordinator

He has more than 2.5 million subscribers, garners over 1,000 views per hour when releasing a new video, and is recognized by fans in restaurants and on airplanes around the world. Attributes like these describe many celebrities and athletes, but if you add, “Christian” to that list, it becomes much more narrow. Then attach “Hill Country graduate,” to that list, and you are left with one person—Michael Holt—aka MOLT.

After throwing his last pitch from the mound as a Hill Country Knight in the spring of 2006, Michael Holt ’06, had no idea that he would end up a wildly successful YouTube star in just a few years. Today, after many changes to his initial plan, Michael finds himself traveling the world and making a living by doing the very thing that some students are tempted to do a bit too much—playing video games.

Michael’s path to success started at Hill Country, but in somewhat of an unconventional way. “When I was at Hill Country I didn’t have the best grades,” says Michael.

“I learned in a different way. It was very difficult for me to retain information. A lot of people just learn differently. Some people don’t have to study for a test and ace it. I could study for three hours and get a ‘C’.” Eventually diagnosed with a learning disorder, Michael began to get creative with his studying. “When I had to memorize things for English class, like poetry, I would go outside and skateboard and say the poem out loud. I was doing something I enjoyed, and I would memorize it so much faster than I would have while sitting at my desk.”

Despite a common assumption that “gamers” are not athletic, Michael grew up loving baseball and football and participated in both sports as a Knight. He warmly recounted the end of a particular football season when Coach Philip Hudgens spoke life and encouragement into him and his fellow tear-filled teammates, thanking them for a great playoff run and finally making a dream of Coach Hudgens’ come true—getting to play football when it was cold outside.

Although Michael enjoyed his time on the football team, his true sports allegiance was to baseball. “Coach Craycroft—love him very much. He was such an influential person in my life,” says Michael, also reminiscing about the biscuits and gravy he enjoyed over Bible study at the Craycroft home. His pitching made such an impression in the league that years after his graduation, umpires and referees at games asked, “Is that guy with the slider still here?”

Upon graduation, Michael planned to walk onto the baseball team at Western Carolina. He intended to use his first season as a college player to bulk up, get stronger, and begin throwing in the nineties. But those plans would never come to fruition. One hot summer day preceding his freshman year of college, Michael was spending the afternoon with his friends on the river. A simple jump onto a rope swing is all it took to change the course of his life. “I jumped, and the rope wrapped around my arm—cutting completely through my tricep and disconnecting it,” he says, “and my bicep was 75% severed.” Due to the massive nerve damage, Michael didn’t have use of his hand for five months after the accident. “The doctors said I should not have been able to use my arm again, or I should have bled to death. In their minds, there were no other options.”

Michael endured years of physical therapy and rehabilitation that kept him from pursuing his baseball dream. He defied the odds, and his arm is back to full mobility. “It works perfectly. It’s a bit weird-looking now, but it works just fine! It was very clear that the Lord had other plans for me, and they didn’t include baseball even though I wanted them to. I could look at my arm as a negative, but I could also redefine that situation as the shift in direction that was going to take me to where I am now—having a bigger impact than I would have had playing baseball.”

After finishing college at the University of South Carolina, Michael began a career in graphic design, and also began to play a simple game on his phone in his spare time.

“I started playing a game called Clash of Clans on my phone and went online to see if there were any videos on it. I found a couple and thought, I can do this. I can make these videos. I started making my own as a fun little part-time gig.” As you may have guessed, his YouTube channel name, MOLT, comes from a combination of his first and last names. “I was posting about four videos per week but really didn’t make any money from it for the first year. Eventually, it started growing, and after a year and a half, I started making as much money on YouTube as I was at my graphic design job. At that point, Michael decided to commit to being a full-time “YouTuber” and he quit his job in graphic design. “I quit. It was scary. I was scared, and my parents were scared!”

Fast-forward to today, and Michael is now well into a successful career as a professional game streamer, spending most of his working time streaming himself playing well-known games such as Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, and more. Michael’s multiple YouTube channels contain thousands of viral videos, and he now makes his living from YouTube advertising revenue, as well as from his numerous sponsorships and partnerships. Not unlike a professional athlete, “MOLT” is flown around the world to announce for and play in tournaments on behalf of Supercell, the makers of Clash of Clans and Clash Royale. He recently logged his ninth trip to Helsinki, Finland. “I actually wanted to be a news anchor before I studied graphic design,” he says. “It’s really cool that I went full circle and get to be a news anchor of sorts for some of these tournaments.”

Michael gives his wife Rachel a lot of credit for her support of his unconventional career, but she did not let his fame get in the way of figuring out who he really was. “She didn’t watch a single one of my videos for the first three months we dated because she wanted to get to know me, not my internet persona.”

In addition to Michael’s game-streaming channel, he and Rachel have a personal YouTube channel that is full of insightful, funny, and honest content that Rachel edits and curates called, The Holts. “The second channel isn’t a business thing, it isn’t for us to make money. It’s for us to try to have an impact on people,” says Michael. “If it impacts one person, it’s worth it.”

He recently hosted Gaten Matarazzo and Noah Schnapp of the well-known Netflix series Stranger Things for a Brawl Stars tournament. Despite knowing success firsthand, Michael says he was pretty starstruck upon first meeting the Netflix stars—telling them how much he loved Stranger Things, to which Noah replied, “I used to watch your videos on YouTube.” Michael says, “It was super fun and surreal—really fun to be able to hang out with those guys.”

However, it’s not all fun and games for Michael. His work often requires travel away from his wife and home, countless hours of publishing, and sometimes involves boredom due to playing the same game for long periods. “There is definitely a misconception. There are a lot of things that make YouTubers’ jobs difficult. We don’t have coworkers, so it can be very lonely. Despite many YouTubers having millions of subscribers and followers, loneliness and depression are very common.”

When asked what tips and tricks he would give to aspiring YouTubers, Michael delivered honest feedback. “Don’t do it to be famous, don’t do it to be successful, because if you go into it with those motives—when it isn’t going well—you’ll feel defeated. If you go into it because you enjoy it and you want to have an impact on people, or because you’re having fun making videos—that’s when it’s going to work out.”

Michael’s advice isn’t just limited to gaming and streaming. When discussing how his time at Hill Country prepared him for his career, as unconventional as it is, he said, “Training to apply yourself in situations where you don’t want to be, prepares you to be successful in places you do want to be. It’s like being on the mound, throwing a 70mph fastball, and then throwing an 80mph fastball a month later because I’ve been training. That application from the classroom can transfer all over the place to whatever you end up doing with your life.”

Michael, now a North Carolina resident, misses several things about Texas. “I miss the waterparks, the food in general, and the hills,” also noting that he especially misses Rudy’s Bar-B-Q. When asked what he would say to all of his former teachers if given a chance, he said the following, “Thank you for putting up with my shenanigans and for being patient with me as I figured out how I learned best.” Michael plans to continue streaming his game playing for the foreseeable future and is always on the lookout for the next big thing in gaming.

Cory Vinlove
Class of 2008

When is the last time you investigated organized crime syndicates? For alumnus Cory Vinlove ’08, he does it all in a day’s work.

“I began my career in law enforcement in 2012 with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office,” says Cory. “After feeling led by God, and after much prayer and conversation with my wife, I eventually decided to transfer to the Lexington Police Department in Lexington, Kentucky. I am currently a detective in the gang unit, where I investigate criminal offenses by gang members as well as other organized criminal syndicates. I work closely with many local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to quell gang activity and violence all throughout the state of Kentucky.”

The Lexington Police Department awarded Cory the Life Saving Award in the summer of 2019 for heroic actions he took when he came upon a vehicle teetering near the edge of a steep embankment that led to a waterway. He and fellow detective, Steven Hudak, worked their way down to the vehicle and were able to use their body weight to keep the car from going over the edge, rendering aid to the trapped driver until the fire department could arrive.

Cory took a non-traditional route in recently obtaining his B.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Louisville. “I started at ACC after graduating from Hill Country,” says Cory. “After two years, I put my education on hold to begin my career in law enforcement. In 2017, I continued my education because I wanted to complete the task I set for myself years ago. Going back to school in my late twenties was an interesting experience. I had much more respect for education and was much more disciplined than when I was eighteen years old. Even with the long gap in my education, the basis of knowledge that I received from Hill Country stuck with me and helped me transition back into my education process seamlessly.”

Cory eagerly recounted his times at Hill Country, noting, “The things that stick out most in my memory are the teachers that demanded the best from me academically but also took a personal interest in my development as a godly, successful individual. Teachers like Scott Horne, Edward Baptiste, and Patricia Brunson were key figures in my life that not only gave me a top-notch education but encouraged me and challenged me to grow as a person.”

Cory and his wife are enjoying the Lexington life but also enjoy occasional trips back to Austin, where they met through the college ministry of Hill Country Bible Church in 2010.

McKenna Dallmeyer
Class of 2018

She has appeared on national television, interned with the governor’s office, co-hosted a weekly live stream, founded student club chapters, served as vice president for multiple organizations, been a campus correspondent for a political organization, and – oh yeah – all while being a student. Sound familiar?

It will sound familiar if you know Hill Country’s 2018 Valedictorian, McKenna Dallmeyer. Since starting college in the fall of 2018 at Texas A&M University, she has been going nonstop. As a freshman, McKenna made a lasting impact on campus. She founded a chapter of Young Women for America, became the Campus Correspondent for the organization Campus Reform, served as Events Coordinator for Turning Point USA, served as Vice President of Christians United For Israel and using what time she had left, was an active member of Team 12 (a professional organization that assists with special events and game-day operations for the Texas A&M Department of Athletics).

McKenna recently completed an internship with the governor’s office, where she vetted potential appointees who applied to serve on various boards or commissions, along with helping to plan several seminars. “It was such an honor to go to work in the Texas State Capitol every day and meet with Governor Abbott on several occasions,” she says. “Within these roles, I have learned so much about myself and my work ethic.” She was also recently awarded Rookie of the Year by Young Women of America for establishing a chapter of YWA at Texas A&M.

On October 9th, 2019, McKenna appeared on the Fox and Friends morning news program in response to public criticism by a business owner (whose business Dallmeyer planned to patronize) because of her political beliefs. During the nationally televised interview, McKenna called for dialogue and tolerance among those who differ in their political beliefs, citing her Christian faith as the reason for holding her convictions.

McKenna broke from her busy life to recount some memories of events at Hill Country that helped to shape her into who she is today. “First and foremost, the Christian foundation that I established while in middle and high school without a doubt made, and makes, my time here [at college] a lot easier,” she says. “Hill Country prepared me academically, especially in the area of rhetoric and writing. I am confident in my writing and speaking abilities and had a solid background in both areas when entering college. I believe this is what landed me a job as a contributor for Campus Reform, and [gave me] opportunities to speak at conferences and events on behalf of the organizations I am a part of.”

In rare fashion for a college student, McKenna accepted a full-time position as assistant to the Senior Vice President of Development for Convention of States (a state’s rights organization) and will dedicate herself to her career while completing her undergraduate degree through Liberty University.

Noah Wallace
Class of 2016

Now close to graduating from Clemson University, Noah Wallace has accomplished a lot since graduating from Hill Country in 2016. This Marketing and Film Studies double major completed multiple internships and helped found the first Clemson Spikeball Club. He traveled to places like Costa Rica, Thailand, and New Zealand, and even took up surfing.

“What started as a 30-person club has turned into 300 students who play Spikeball every Tuesday and Thursday,” says Noah. “Clemson has been instrumental in driving Spikeball as an official collegiate sport since we have one of the largest organizations in the country. Last year we placed 5th overall as a club in nationals.” Spikeball, otherwise known as Roundnet, has grown in popularity over the years, and you can now find people playing it on nearly every beach and park in the United States.

As an intern, Noah leveraged his knowledge and talent in film editing to create compelling commercial spots and stories for both Dell and Magna Life Settlements. “Mr. Scott’s video production class sparked my interest in what I now will hopefully be doing with my career,” he says. “Having teachers that not only invest in you academically but also relationally, allowed me to gain an appreciation for lifelong learning.”

Noah moved to South Carolina in the summer of 2016, ready to hit the ground running in an unfamiliar environment. “Not knowing a single person upon my arrival really stretched me, [causing me] to make new friends and make meaningful relationships,” he says. “I would say the greatest attribute I took from my time at Hill Country was learning how to invest in people’s lives, rather than be content with surface-level relationships. Hill Country delivers a quality education centered around critical thinking and problem-solving. But more importantly, the school teaches you how to develop meaningful relationships that will impact you for the rest of your life.”

Caroline (Janssen) Lengyel
Class of 2010

Since graduating from Hill Country just under a decade ago, Caroline Janssen Lengyel ’10 has already made great strides in her career. After graduating from college, she began her career at one of the Big Three management consulting firms in the nation and worked closely with executives in the airline, technology, and organic food industries. As the Strategy Manager for a fast-growing recruiting start-up, she now oversees all finance and growth operations. She is driven, motivated, and articulate, and it seems like nothing has changed since she walked across the stage to receive her Hill Country diploma in 2010.

“She was always really friendly,” says Mr. Baptiste. “Very studious, very kind. Such a great student.” Caroline looks back fondly on her times at Hill Country. “It is so hard to pick a few [great memories],” she says. “I absolutely loved all the Homecoming week activities each year! From decorating the hallways, class competitions, cheering on our Knights at the football game, I felt like it always really brought the school together. I think one of my favorite team memories was staying overnight in Hallettsville for the regional track meet, and cramming into one room to watch a movie together. The camaraderie we had on that team will be hard to match.”

As she looks back on her formative years at Hill Country, Caroline recounts a few significant observations. “First, from an academic perspective, my professional writing skills were far more developed than those of my peers,” she says. “I credit this to all the writing I did in my English classes at Hill Country! I still get compliments at work now about my writing and am frequently asked to proofread others’ pieces. I credit this to the great Hill Country teachers who taught and honed my skills. Second, I was very well-equipped with spiritual knowledge. A&M actually has a very strong Christian culture, so I had no problem falling in with a great crowd that shared my viewpoints; however, I was much more educated in my faith than many of my peers, and I credit this to the great Bible classes that Hill Country offered. I still reference the doctrine and apologetics classes today!”

The busy Strategy Manager and her husband, Dan, lived in Texas and South Carolina, before calling Arizona home. Dan, a pilot in the Marine Corps, spends his days flying F-35 fighter jets. The couple recently celebrated their third wedding anniversary, and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their daughter this fall