Alumni Profile: Gracie Graves

Gracie Graves remembers ninth grade as the year she came home from school crying every day.

“I felt like I didn’t understand anything, especially in math,” she explains. After months of struggling and feeling defeated, she begged her parents to send her to Hill Learning Center, as she remembered how much her older brother, Thomas Rassmusen, had benefited from his time there. “I really wanted to go to Hill!” she remembers, a genuine grin spreading across her face.

She remembers beginning her tenth-grade year at Hill feeling “very nervous but excited at the same time,” which her former teachers will recognize as representative of the ever-positive Gracie. “It was hard to figure out how to ask questions at first,” she admits. However, after a few weeks at Hill, she realized, “Everybody was there to help and that there’s no shame in asking questions.”

Gracie attended Hill for three years, graduating in June of 2020 from East Chapel Hill High School. Having just finished her freshman year at Appalachian State University, she can identify how Hill’s personalized learning environment and explicit skills instruction helped her both in her high school and college classes. “Hill made me a more confident learner,” she explains, noting that the small class sizes helped her find the courage to ask for clarification and extra help. She appreciated being able to learn at a more reasonable pace and the specific strategies her teachers shared for managing her time. In fact, one of her biggest takeaways from her time at Hill was an increased understanding of how to plan out her homework, studying, and project preparation.

Although Gracie began her high school career too intimidated to ask questions, by her senior year, “I loved asking questions at Hill! That was my favorite thing. Everybody was there to help. I wanted to understand what I was doing, especially in math.” Gracie’s tenacity and drive earned her Hill’s Perseverance Award, which she received during the virtual senior ceremony her graduating year.

Gracie also realized that asking for help and making mistakes was part of the learning process. In fact, she continues to remind herself of these ideas as she takes on a new skill: karate. “I don’t do it for the belts,” she notes upfront, explaining that she saw it as a way to get more exercise and social time. She has been taking classes since the spring of 2021 and admits that learning the unfamiliar, structured routines is a struggle but that she asks for help as needed and practices independently.

At Appalachian State, Gracie made the Dean’s List both semesters of her freshman year. She intends to declare elementary education as her major, “because I love to help people in any way I can and I know how hard it is to learn new things.”

As she looks to the remainder of her college career, she does miss her time at Hill. “It’s a family. We were all there for each other,” she says with a smile. “Hill made me realize it’s okay to have a learning difference and that there’s nothing wrong with that.”

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