Rebecca Hilleary of Spring City will graduate from Chattanooga State in May with an associate degree in pre-health, before she graduates sixth in her class of 315 students at Rhea County High School (RCHS) two weeks later. That includes an unprecedented 85 college credits amassed, with three-quarters of her bachelor’s degree completed. “Rebecca’s track record of academic, volunteer and personal effort is proof that devotion, dedication, focus, determination and good study habits will truly develop remarkable results,” said Buddy Ballentine, RCHS graduation/scholarship coach.
Role models often provide an unscheduled impact…just ask Rebecca Hilleary. When her Aunt Kristy would visit, Rebecca asked, “What do you do at work?” Her aunt’s simplified answer for the young child made all the difference: “I help make medicine to make people well.” So, at the young age of five, she decided she wanted to “grow up to be just like her aunt;” and Rebecca’s love of pharmacy was born. Rebecca’s aunt, Kristy H. Lucas, is a Doctor of Pharmacy and professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy in West Virginia who says, “I look forward to one day calling her colleague.”
Rebecca and her mother investigated required classes for high school, ChattState pre-health requirements and pre-pharmacy school requirements. They contacted Mr. Ballentine for guidance and a two-year plan was designed. “My mom and I noticed that the bulk of requirements for the college (Chattanooga State) were also classes I needed for high school and pre-pharmacy.”
Thus began her Dual Enrollment career at age 15 and Rebecca had no problem pointing out advantages of the Early College/Dual Enrollment program. “Dual enrollment has given me an opportunity to expand my horizons and reach goals I never dreamed possible; it has jump-started my college experience and paved the road to success for over three-quarters of my bachelor’s degree.” Rebecca’s mom notes, “We were able to fully utilize public education and enhance Rebecca’s learning through early college. Self motivation, the desire to excel and a supportive administration have been essential to Rebecca’s success.”
Academics are not the only area in which she excels. “Rebecca works hard to make such a difference in the lives of those around her,” shares Emmaly Fisher, RCHS librarian. As an active peer tutor for students with disabilities, she works with the teachers to provide a nurturing environment.
Rebecca participates in extra-curricular activities including four years of varsity cheerleading, teaching as well as taking advanced ballet classes, 4-H, speaking at community events, working on the Gold Award for Girl Scouts, church and volunteering at the Women’s Care Center.
Perhaps one of the most important ways to “give back” that Ms. Hilleary has embraced is through her role as 2014 Distinguished Young Woman (DYW) of Rhea County. DYW is a national scholarship program that promotes and rewards scholarship, leadership and talent in young women through a platform called “Be Your Best Self.” Distinguished Young Women nationwide visit schools and speak to students about striving to be their best by eating the right foods, saying no to drugs, being honest and trustworthy, and making good grades. Rebecca has been to every school in Rhea County to spread this positive message.
Taking her studies seriously has meant making choices at times. When the DYW state competition fell during the second week of the five-week summer term it presented a very real problem. Missing a full week of a five-week class in chemistry II would be impossible and put her a year behind in her chemistry sequence. “Thankfully with online lectures, understanding professors who acknowledged the opportunity she had been given, a wonderful host mom (Judy Morton) at State DYW and a ton of pressure, she survived!” said her mother, Karen Hilleary.
Rebecca Hilleary has been accepted with scholarship and will attend Campbell University in North Carolina Fall 2014. Rebecca’s early college credits would allow for her direct application to the School of Pharmacy Doctorial program. Although she could earn her doctorate by age 22, she chose to specialize and receive a Masters in Clinical Pharmaceutical Research first. Because Rebecca watched a beloved teacher undergo extensive treatments for leukemia, she fully realizes the value of “helping make people well.” Rebecca along with her parents Scott Hilleary and Karen Hilleary reside in Spring City. Her older brother Parker is a junior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in business while younger brother Drew is a freshman at Rhea County High School.