The sixth generation Iowan grew up in Solon, with her parents, older brother, sister and just one house away from her grandmother. Her strong connection to family, music and faith lead her to Mount Mercy.
“I didn’t want to go too far,” Hillary said about being away from home. Her brother is a Mount Mercy graduate and now works in Cedar Rapids.
Hillary's mother holds a master’s degree in music and is a teacher in Solon.
“I grew up around music,” she said. Between fourth and sixth grades, she was a part of the Children’s Discovery Chorus, a group that sings with Orchestra Iowa.
“That’s where my love for singing developed,” Hillary explained. “It’s so cool when you’re a little girl and you get to sit behind the symphony and sing with them. It’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.”
Hillary said that she was also exposed to piano and drum lessons growing up. She has recently picked up the cello and takes lessons.
Hillary also added that even though she has been exposed to music her whole life, her time at Mount Mercy has allowed her love for music to develop quickly.
“I get to spend most of my days with music,” she said with a smile on her face. “Spending that time has fostered that growth and that enjoyment.”
Daniel Kleinknecht and Tony Nickle have been an integral part of Hillary’s time at Mount Mercy. Kleinknecht is Hillary’s vocal teacher; Nickle is her piano teacher. Hillary said that they, along with a strong focus, have helped her interest in music grow.
“I came to Mount Mercy not knowing for sure that I wanted to do music, but now that I’ve been here for three months, I’ve grown to love it so much more and now I’m positive that this is what I want to do,” Hillary, who is a double major in music and education, explained.
She is looking forward to all of the experiences and opportunities that college offers. Along with being president of the freshman class, she is involved in the Drama Club, S-ISEA (Education Club), Jazz Connection, the University Band and holds the role of Mercy Lewis, an accuser of witches, in Mount Mercy’s 2012 play, “The Crucible.”
To cope with her new surroundings, Hillary has turned to new friends for support, but still leans on religion to guide her. She regularly attends Tuesday night Bible studies and Mass on Wednesdays.
“My faith is what has kept me upright through everything,” she said. “I’m very busy, so it’s the one thing I can rely on to help get me through life.”
Hillary said that she hopes Mount Mercy will aid in the discovery of her religion because she believes that there are so many fascinating things to learn.
“I love how Mount Mercy is all about volunteering and helping other people. When you see the needs of people, it brings you closer to God.”
As for the future, Hillary is certain that music will take her in the right direction.
“I know that the perfect opportunity is out there. I just need to keep my eyes open to it.”
This Student Profile was written by Amanda Mayotte, feature editor, and was originally published in the Mount Mercy Times – October 31, 2012.