Overcoming adversity can be a big enough challenge, but doing that while also excelling academically, as a leader and while focusing on big plans for the future, takes exceptional drive and dedication.
That’s exactly what Three Rivers High School senior Hailie Council has displayed, which has led to her being named the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce Young Adult of the Year and also earning the rank of salutatorian for the TRHS Class of 2021.
Council said Three Rivers has been her home since she was 3, and she credits the support of educators, family, friends and the community with helping to encourage her. Hailie’s dad and stepmom, Bud and Christie Council, opened Bud’s Bait and Tackle in Three Rivers in 2016, and the business has thrived and grew large enough to move to a larger location across from Choke Canyon Reservoir. Helping the store to succeed prompted Hailie to enter a work program this spring so she could spend extra time doing whatever is needed at the business.
Loss leads to inspiration
Hailie’s future has been strongly influenced by the past, as well. Hailie said she was inspired to become an oncologist, working to treat and cure cancer patients, because her mother Christina died in 2011 when Hailie was 8 years old.
“Whenever my mom passed away from cancer, I knew I wanted to do something to benefit the world in her honor,” Hailie said. “Then when my father was diagnosed with cancer, it was set in stone what my purpose in life was going to be.
“I want to help people like my mom who won’t be there to see me walk across the stage (at graduation) or get married one day. I want to see people be able to experience those milestones in their children’s lives.”
That goal will lead Hailie to attend Texas A&M University in College Station where she plans to major in biomedical science on a pre-medicine track.
That will keep her busy for the next several years, but Hailie is undaunted by the challenge.
“I’ve been used to a busy life with a lot of things going on,” she said. “The biggest adjustment will be going from little Three Rivers to big College Station. I will miss the great support from people I’ve known almost all my life.”
Keys to success
Being able to navigate a busy schedule filled with commitments and events is something that Hailie said she gets stressed out over or spends a lot of time planning.
“I just kind of go with the flow,” she said. “Some people use planners to keep track of everything and that’s great if it works for them, but it’s not something I’ve done. Whatever comes up that needs to be done, I just do it.
“One of the biggest things that has allowed me to be successful is all the support I’ve gotten. Not just from family allowing me time to do the work but from friends and teachers. No one has ever told me I can’t achieve something.”
In addition to her parents, Hailie has a 29-year-old brother, 22-year-old sister, 19-year-old step-sister and a 12-year-old sister.
Family has been very important in supporting and encouraging her, she said, and after her mom died, an aunt who lived in Arizona stayed with the family to help them adjust to all the changes.
Although not having her mom around anyone was difficult, she said her family worked together to make the best of a difficult situation.
“All of us as a whole grew from the loss,” Hailie said. “It also put my focus on what I want to do in my life. I am pursuing a career because I want to help people and to honor my mom and also my father, who I’m so blessed to still have in my life.”
One of the biggest ways Hailie said her family has helped her is to allow her to have the time needed to be successful.
“They always give me time to myself,” she said. “They expect a lot from me but recognize when I need my time to work on my own things.”
Bud Council said his daughter has proven she has the initiative to do great things.
“She doesn’t party, but instead is so focused on doing well in school, helping out with the business and on working toward the goals she has for her future,” he said. “I’m so proud of her and what she’s accomplished, and of all that she still wants to accomplish.”
Leadership in action
Hailie’s priorities have led not only to academic excellence but to a leadership position with FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America), not just at Three Rivers, but at state and regional events.
“I love FCCLA,” she said. “It’s been my passion since seventh grade. It’s really been a big part of my growth. You focus on leadership and how to be an all-around good citizen. I really owe a lot to FCCLA and to my advisor, Mrs. (Lindsey) McClendon.
“Another person who’s really helped me is Mr. (Jimmy) Conn, for sure. He’s been my math teacher since seventh grade. He’s watched me grow up from a 12-year-old to who I am now.”
Hailie is also an accomplished writer, having competed in several UIL journalism events.
“Mrs. Kasper and Mrs. Mosely helped watch me bud into the writer I am, and I’m fortunate that I’ve been pretty successful.”
Hailie said she is also thankful for the TR Chamber of Commerce naming her Young Adult of the Year.
“I was kind of shocked when I learned about it,” she said. “I didn’t even know about it in advance or that I was in the running for it. It felt very good to have the recognition and to be appreciated.”
Hailey Kopplin, assistant principal at Three Rivers Junior/Senior High, has gotten to know Hailie well over the years.
“I’ve been her principal almost since she was in fifth grade,” said Kopplin, who previously was a principal at the elementary school. “Ever since she was in elementary she has been an excellent reader and that has helped her a great deal in her academic career.
“Obviously with losing her mom at such a young age, she’s overcome obstacles and she’s remained focused on being successful, hard working and is very goal oriented. Her leadership with FCCLA has been important, too. She’s been very involved with the organization at the state level.”
McClendon, who has taught Hailie since seventh grade, said Hailie’s involvement with the organization has had a strong positive impact on her life.
“She’s done STAR (Students Taking Action with Recognition) events at the state and national level and has been a state officer for FCCLA,” McClendon said. “She is very dedicated and works to do the job until it’s done perfectly.
“She is also a great organizer and part of her responsibility involves calling adults and getting them to be judges. I have no doubt she’ll be successful in whatever she chooses to do — no doubt.”
Conn said he knew Hailie was going to be successful from the time he first started teaching her in seventh grade.
“She was extremely mature for her age,” he said. “She was taking Algebra I as a seventh-grader and there are a lot of freshmen (two years older) in that class). She is dedicated to studying and her work ethic has been about the best I’ve seen.
“I have also had the opportunity to work with her for UIL academics, and her senior year she did something different — she was stage manager for one act play. Two of the three contests we were in, she was given the outstanding technical award. That’s pretty impressive. I can give her a job and I know 100 percent that she’ll get it done.”
Conn said he will be keeping an eye on Hailie’s accomplishments and sees great things in store for her future.
“She’s one of those kids you look forward to seeing excel in the future,” he said. “It will be fun to see where she goes and what she does after she graduates.”