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Hillary Dong: DHS Senior Spotlight 2019
Hillary Dong: DHS Senior Spotlight 2019

Get to know activist Hillary Dong, DHS Class of 2019!

Hillary at Band loading dock

Name: Hillary Dong

Where were you born? Where did you grow up? I was born and raised in Dalton, Georgia, and have lived here my entire life.

Elementary school: City Park Elementary School

What were you involved with at your high school? I've been a member of the marching band and percussion ensemble since freshman year, and I served as front ensemble captain junior and senior years. I have also been a member of the drama club and thespian troupe all four years, was involved in seven theatrical productions, and was named an honor thespian in 2017. I competed in argumentative essay in GHSA literary competition from sophomore year through senior year and was a class representative in student council for sophomore and junior years. I was also a member of National Beta Club, French National Honor Society, and National Honor Society.

High school achievements, highlights, or awards:

  • Second place argumentative essay – 2018 GHSA 6A state literary competition
  • Third place argumentative essay – 2019 GHSA 6A state literary competition
  • AP Scholar with Distinction
  • Band Senior Scholar Award (band senior with highest weighted GPA)
  • Georgia Certificate of Merit
  • Winning first in class at the Peach State Marching Festival three years in a row

Scholarships received? Band Senior Scholar Award, Zell Miller Scholarship

Plans after graduation: Enjoy my last summer at home and attend Georgia Tech in the fall.

What do you plan to major in and why? Public Policy. I care deeply about social justice and want to take tangible steps towards making the world a better, more equitable place for all.

Hillary at loading dock

I chose my post-graduation plans because... Georgia Tech will provide a challenging education with an emphasis on STEM, which I find particularly unique and advantageous for my intended field of study, given that we live in such a technologically-reliant world. Not only that, but its location in Atlanta will expose me to a breadth of opportunities I can find few places else, and I really am just in love with the school's campus, culture, and philosophy. Go Jackets!

What did you enjoy most in high school? I loved being a part of the band, theatre, and literary, and I loved attending the Duke TIP Center for Summer Studies program the summers after my freshman and sophomore years. These activities allowed me to meet and get closer to some of the most important people in my life, and I am so grateful to them for that.

Favorite teacher and why? Dr. Wiggins. She was my AP Language teacher sophomore year, as well as my literary coach junior and senior years. Her unwavering kindness and faith in me helped me when I needed it most, and I don't know if I can ever fully express how much her support has meant to me over the past several years.

Favorite subject or class and why? I can't choose just one, but if I had to pick a top three, I'd choose AP Psychology, AP US History, and AP Environmental Science. I was passionate about the content in all three classes, and I was particularly lucky to be great friends with several of my classmates in AP Psych and APUSH. AP Environmental was the first time I really felt like I had any sort of aptitude in a STEM field—so much so, in fact, that I started volunteering at the Tennessee Aquarium because of that class (thank you Coach Haight!).

What has been your greatest accomplishment? Organizing the March For Our Lives – Dalton in a span of three weeks with just a few other students to a turnout of over 300.

What has been your greatest challenge? Learning how to cope with my mental health and that asking for help is not weakness.

The thing I'm most proud of is... my personal growth over the past four years and the wonderful relationships I've cultivated along the way.

Who will you miss the most? Too many people to count. I'm so grateful for the support system I have here in Dalton, from teachers to friends who have already graduated to the juniors (or well, rising seniors) that I leave behind. I love you all, and I'll only be an hour-and-a-half away.

Hillary at loading dock

Something people know me for is... being outspoken.

What do you do in your free time? I write poetry, cook, and attend as many concerts and music festivals as I can convince my parents to let me go to.

Person who has influenced your life most and why? My friend Nic Farris. He reaffirmed my autonomy and reminded me that I'm ultimately in control of my own life when I needed to hear it most, and I haven't forgotten it since. I learn a lot about myself both from what I learn from him and where we differ in our perspectives.

If you knew you could not fail, what would you do? Pursue a creative writing career, fight voter suppression, and enact criminal justice reform.

If money was not a consideration, what would you do? See as much live music as I can and donate to organizations that support causes I care about.

My favorite high school memory is... the feeling of winning first in class at Peach State sophomore year. There was this shared sense of euphoria that night that I don't know can ever be replicated.

In five years, I hope I... am either in graduate school and/or working in some capacity to serve and uplift marginalized communities. Either way, I hope I am content with my life.