Hilliard, Margrey earn top spots in Class of 2019

Valedictorian Emilie Hilliard

Emilie Hilliard spent the past four years striving for excellence as a John C. Birdlebough High School student, and those efforts paid dividends when she recently achieved the top spot in the Class of 2019.

Hilliard, a standout student with a knack for science, will major in biochemistry next year at Gannon University. She hopes to eventually use her degree in biochemistry, with a minor in business, to work in pharmaceutical sales.

“I plan to travel the world acting as an international pharmaceutical sales representative -- or a similar medical sales field -- then I hope to climb the corporate ladder and become an executive for a medical sales company,” Hilliard said.

While she has big plans laid out for the future, she also reflected on her years as a PCSD student. She took full advantage of every opportunity available to her during her high school career, and participated in soccer, indoor track, outdoor track, National Honor Society, the school newspaper, TV News, Yearbook and several different clubs.

“Of everything I’ve been involved in during high school, my most memorable experience has been my work with special education students through Special Olympics, unified sports and buddy lunches,” Hilliard said. “The bonds I’ve formed through those experiences are lifelong.”

Hilliard noted that the connections with her classmates and teachers have helped in her success.

“The bonds I have built have pushed me to excel through high school,” Hilliard said. “PCSD has shaped me into the person I am today. It has provided me with many opportunities both in and out of the classroom, molding me into the driven individual I am.”

Hilliard noted that her drive and pursuit of excellence was instilled in her by her parents, Aimee and Bill Hilliard.

Salutatorian Ashley Margrey

While juggling work, academic commitments, athletics and various extracurricular activities may seem daunting to some students, John C. Birdlebough Class of 2019 senior Ashley Margrey has embraced her busy schedule and landed among the top students in her graduating class.

Margrey, this year’s salutatorian, is a three-sport athlete who participated in soccer, basketball and track. She also served as a mentor on the school’s unified basketball team and was involved in dozens of clubs and organizations. She served on the student council and principal’s cabinet, was a member of National Honor Society, DECA, Environmental Club, SADD Club, Drama Club, Spirit Club, Art Club and Spanish Club, wrote for the student newspaper, and was a leadership delegate for Camp Oswegatchi.

In addition to the school-based activities, Margrey said her biggest joy was giving back to the Phoenix community through a variety of service projects. She participated in fundraising walks, the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign, community cleanup efforts, Big Brother/Big Sister and food drives, to name a few.

“The PCSD has helped me become involved in service and value the worth of helping others,” Margrey said. “Being in a small community, I can directly see how my efforts in volunteering have benefited others. This made me want to broaden my service to bigger things.”

Margrey will bring that service-driven mentality to Binghamton University in the fall, where she will pursue a degree in business marketing. Ultimately, she would like to become a brand manager.

As she looks toward the next chapter in her life, she said she won’t forget all the people and the community that helped her build a solid foundation for the future. She said she will miss attending the dances and sporting events with her friends and wanted to leave her classmates with simple advice: “Always be kind to others and never stop trying to improve yourself.”

Margrey is the daughter of Lisa and Douglas Margrey.