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Midvale Journal

Two distinguished Hillcrest alumnae receive school alumni association’s top awards

Nov 07, 2023 11:59AM ● By Julie Slama

Carri Phippen Jenkins, Hillcrest High class of ‘79, was recognized with the Distinguished Alumni Award while Shreya Mahasenan, class of ‘19, received the Distinguished Young Alumni Award. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Two notable Hillcrest alumnae credited their high school teachers for the impact they’ve made on their lives while being honored with the fifth annual distinguished alumni awards during halftime of Hillcrest High’s homecoming football game.

Carri Phippen Jenkins, class of ‘79, was recognized with the Distinguished Alumni Award while Shreya Mahasenan, class of ‘19, received the Distinguished Young Alumni Award. Both awards are given by Hillcrest High Alumni Association to graduates who have given extraordinary service to the community, the nation, their profession or to the school. 

Jenkins, who for two decades has been the spokeswoman for Brigham Young University, was involved in student senate, ran the 440 and 880 in track, sang in choir, cheered with the spirit team, wrote for the student newspaper and performed in “Hansel and Gretel” and “Brigadoon” on Hillcrest’s stage. She remembers Hillcrest as “a place where everyone felt appreciated and supported; people weren’t judgmental of one another.”

As a student, she made strong connections with Sandra Clark, her English teacher.

“I remember we read ‘Julius Caesar’ and she had it on a record player,” Jenkins said. “We would play that record and every few minutes, she would lift the needle up and say, ‘Do you know what things were being said here?’ This was Shakespeare and we were sophomores, so she would explain it. When we understood it toward the end of the play, she’d keep the record playing. I’ve used that as a model to make sure people understood what was being said because you can write a great article or statement, but if it’s not communicating what you need and people don’t understand it, then who is benefiting? That lesson sunk in,” she said.

Jenkins reunited with Clark as a student teacher.

“The teacher I was doing my student teaching under was sick a great amount of time, so I was really on my own. I went back to Ms. Clark, and she helped prepare me for teaching ‘Julius Caesar,’ by sharing her curriculum and aids,” she said, adding that her parents, who were educators, encouraged her to get a teaching certificate in addition to her journalism degree.

Her debate coach, Dennis Edmonds, supported her.

“He was the best trainer I have for my job now, because he really had to make sure we were well prepared. He really taught us to slow so we’d address the issues raised by the other person and focus on what they had brought up. You just didn’t transition and move to whatever it was that you wanted to on your index cards, you had to address their concerns, their arguments,” Jenkins said.

She also loved being in choir and musicals under Leo Dean: “He was just so wonderful and caring and really started a lot of the strong music traditions that Hillcrest still has today. Brian Bentley was my classmate, and the star of all the musicals, and he stepped right in to continue building the program that is appreciated so much today.”

One of her favorite memories was on a choir trip to Oregon when the choir “sounded the best it ever had.”

“It was one of our final performances, and I don’t have perfect pitch, but for that one time in my life, I felt like I had and knew we were right on. It was so beautiful; this song was performed with our unique high school voices coming together. Mr. Dean was proud of us; for me, his praise was more rewarding than that high ranking. He was the most caring, decent individual and educator I’ve ever met,” she said.

Another fun highlight was when Jenkins ran track under coach Jeannie Crickmore Wilson.

“I had a lot of fun at track, but at the University of Utah Invitational, it was pouring rain. Most of the schools left and we had the mile relay, which was the end of the meet. We were the only competitors, but to win that race and the meet, we had to run it. So, we literally did the bunny hop around that track and stuck it out. Our coach was pretty strict, but she had a fun side; she was OK with it, knowing it was a lesson in seeing things through once you make a commitment,” she said.

Jenkins attended Ricks College in Idaho where she earned a combined English and journalism associate degree. She then went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s from BYU in communications and a teaching certificate in journalism and English.

The distinguished young alumni Mahasenan said she maintains strong connections to her alma mater.

“I was invited to do a couple of posts for the global ‘Global Voices’ blog and I always tried to kind of reflect back on my experience at Hillcrest and what about Hillcrest specifically was so beneficial for me,” she said, adding she returned to speak to students as well.

Mahasenan, who studied in the International Baccalaureate program, credits many of those teachers under the direction of John Olsen, specifically biology teacher Alex Mettler, chemistry teacher Jeff Salter and former English teacher Mark Doherty. 

“Most of my teachers clearly loved what they taught,” she said. “That’s important for me as a student. The teachers’ attitude, their passion toward a subject, it’s going to rub off on me and that kept me motivated with my classes,” she said.

Under teacher Matthew Hart, she was able to take medical anatomy and physiology as well as exercise science and sports medicine. 

“Those are two classes were helpful because when I came in for an interview or to a school application, it was more than saying I had studied the basic sciences. It proved my passion, that I had taken steps to learn and experience more, and it was a differentiating factor,” she said.

It was during high school that Mahasenan not only competed on the Science Olympiad and mock trial teams, she teamed up with Husky classmates Madison Hooper and Marie Miskin to develop a device that could impact concussion diagnosis and treatment and were awarded the $1,000 STEM Entrepreneur Award and the Impact Hub In-Kind Award. 

For Mahasenan, it was personal. As a hockey player, she had several concussions leading up to her senior year, but it was one where she and an opposing player both went for a puck and collided that impacted her greatly. 

“I know my head also hit the ice, but I didn’t think I was hurt. It was a couple weeks later that I  detected something was wrong,” she said, saying people would tell her of her unusual, inconsistent behavior. “It was a huge interruption my senior year when I was taking this college-level coursework with IB. I tried to push through it although it was hard to read, to write, to even communicate what I was feeling. I was sensitive to light, to noise, any form of stimulation. I’m grateful to my friends who supported me and to those teachers who worked with me and cared. I now use that experience as a benefit to other people, especially athletes, as I can truly understand what they’re going through and can connect with as patients.”

Mahasenan studied anatomy and cell biology at McGill University in Montreal. While there, she was part of the pre-med society and advocated for better concussion safeguards for young athletes. She became a certified educator for the Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada and spoke to public groups to expand awareness and knowledge surrounding concussion safety.

She also served as a campus paramedic for three years.

“That experience of first-line health care is important to me. It’s always been a goal of mine is to feel empowered, and able to help a person if I see a medical emergency around me, so it’s an amazing opportunity,” she said. “It was rewarding to not only be certified and experience first-hand emergency medicine, but to make the campus safer.”

Having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in June, Mahasenan now is a University of Utah clinical psychology lab coordinator working with geriatric patients with depression. 

“We spend our time talking to them, getting a sense of where their depression is at, some of the stresses behind their depression, how it manifests and if our treatment is improving those functions,” she said.

It’s a position she enjoys and is looking to see if she can manage as she hopes to enter medical school in a few years to become a clinical physician, perhaps in neurology, taking her back to her days at Hillcrest.

“There’s a lot of continuity between what I was doing in high school and how it inspired me to pursue certain paths,” she said. “Purpose is the biggest thing that I got from Hillcrest. I hope this award serves as motivation to keep having that direction.” λ