celebrate education - brought to you by the amarillo globe-news

Breath of fresh air for Sandie senior

By Brenda Bernet

Hope Hillier's journey to graduation included an extra course in perseverance.

Severe asthma attacks her sophomore year of high school nearly kept her from continuing at Amarillo High School her junior year. Through determination, she kept up with her school work and will finish with honors.

"I have dreams," she said. "You can never do that if you don't graduate from high school. It was really important for me to succeed."

The trouble started in fifth grade. Hillier fell ill with mono, which led to pneumonia and then asthma. Because she was sick so often, Hillier home-schooled through middle school and the beginning of her freshman year.

"I was in the hospital," she said. "I was sick all the time. It was really discouraging. I was always at home taking breathing treatments. It got to be kind of lonely."

She made the transition to public school her freshman year. Her sophomore year was a particularly challenging year because of her health. Asthma flare-ups kept her out of school for nearly one-third of the first semester. While she doesn't have the wheezing, she is prone to severe coughing fits.

Some nights, she would cough for hours and take as many as nine consecutive breathing treatments with just seconds of relief before the coughing would resume, she said.

"It was pretty intense," she said.

School didn't stop, and Hillier took more rigorous courses in the Advanced Placement program.

Hillier found some relief from a chiropractor, though she still battles with her condition. She had a stay in the hospital in March.

"Hope is a girl of very strong faith and has trusted God to see her through her asthma and other aspects of life," LeAnn Hillier said.

Hope knew she had challenges when she started at Amarillo High School, Counselor Kelli Schaap said. Make-up work accumulated during absences, which required Hope to meet one-on-one with her teachers and devote her free time to her classes.

"You would have to be committed to your education to make it a success," Schaap said.

She had support from her parents and friends.

"She just keeps going past the asthma," LeAnn Hillier said. "A lot of people have no idea what she's been through and how she keeps on going."

This year, she earned a spot in the AmeriCorps program, helping tutor first- and second-graders at San Jacinto Elementary School, which serves a number of families in poverty. She worried about applying because of her health history, and sickness did interfere, especially a stay in the hospital in March.

She made up the time by helping out at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School and working extra hours, LeAnn Hillier said.

Those days, she would start at 8 a.m. and go until 5:30 p.m. with time to scarf down lunch in her car.

"She's totally determined," LeAnn Hillier said.

She plans to attend West Texas A&M University in the fall to major in education or nursing. She hopes to work with children. Her cap and gown are ready for graduation May 29.

"I'm just excited for the whole experience," Hope Hillier said. "I'm really excited to walk across the stage. They'll call my name."

Editor's note: Beating the Odds is a series published in the Amarillo Globe-News from May 10-24 that tells the stories of all kinds of students who are graduating despite challenges they've faced. It is part of Celebrate Education, a program designed to bring awareness to the need of educational attainment in the Texas Panhandle.

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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