Maya Kaniaupio ‘22
When she was named this year’s homecoming queen, Maya Kaniaupio was surprised and humbled.
“There are so many girls on the court that have participated in wonderful leadership opportunities, are very involved on campus, are very well loved, and are just girls of high-character,” Kaniaupio said.
She has been involved throughout her time on campus, including being a director of GOAL programs and being the president of the Panhellenic Council. She is also the senior class vice president.
Kaniaupio’s experience in the GOAL program has encouraged her to pursue non-profit administration.
“I’m really interested in maybe teaching after I graduate and then eventually going into secondary school administration,” said Kaniaupio.
Eventually, Kaniaupio wants to return to her home state of Hawaii to live on a little farm and raise her family, she said.
Hillsdale has taught her important lessons about engaging critically in deep and fulfilling conversations with her peers, she said.
“I think it’s especially beautiful being here; one thing that I found to be unique is that we all have different beliefs on things,” she said. “But we’re able to engage in a lot of thoughtful discussion.”
Brennan Nokelby ‘22
For Brennan Nokelby, being named homecoming king this past year has filled him with gratitude, but hasn’t changed his ambitions.
“It’s fun, people are very kind to have voted me in. It feels good, but it doesn’t feel too different,” Nokelby said.
Among other campus activities, Nokelby is a head RA in Simpson Residence, and leads a crew for A Few Good Men. As a double major in history and religion, he is considering graduate school in either theology or history.
Eventually, Nokelby wants to raise a family and pursue the Lord, perhaps in his home-state of Nebraska, he said.
“I’m not a very ambitious person, I’m not like D.C. or bust, or anything like that. I’m very content with the small things in life,” he said.
Nokelby’s experience in Hillsdale has been as much about what happens outside the classroom as it has about the lessons inside the classroom.
“I’ve learned part of what it means to be a godly man, and the importance of the liberal arts, of education, of family, and of faith,” he said. “The longer I’ve been at Hillsdale, the more that I just want to give back as much as I can.”
Michaela Stiles ‘21
For Michaela Stiles, being crowned homecoming queen was the pleasant end to a hard senior year after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I felt so honored to get to stand next to Jonathan Burton, who I just have so much respect for,” Stiles said. “And then to look out at the student body on the most incredible campus. It’s just surreal.”
Stiles received a full-ride scholarship to Michigan State University to study vocal performance, and has started her first academic year there. She also works part-time with a children’s and an adult’s choir as a pastoral and music assistant at her local church.
“My teachers are amazing,” she said. “I feel like I’m really being stretched artistically.”
Even in the few short months since she left Hillsdale, Stiles says her voice has matured a lot. Eventually, she plans on performing professionally and hopes to work with a big opera company.
“When my teachers think I’m ready, I’ll start competing and auditioning and doing some young artist’s programs,” Stiles said.
Her experience at Hillsdale has made Stiles realize that Hillsdale is unique, and has made her transition to MSU bittersweet, she said.
“I miss everyone so much. Just be grateful in times like this,” she said. “Just be grateful and don’t take for granted what you have at Hillsdale.”
Jonathan Burton ‘21
Unlike most past homecoming kings, Jonathan Burton can still be found on Hillsdale’s campus taking a fifth year to finish his Spanish and politics double major. Burton hopes to become a military translator after graduation.
As a student, Burton has been involved as an RA for three years, he played football, was on last year’s Legacy Board for the senior class gift, and was involved in various varsity christian bible study groups.
Being crowned homecoming king was an affirmation for all of the work Burton has put into being involved on campus.
“Seeing people respond that way was very gratifying and humbling,” he said. “It’s cool, but it’s not the most important thing.”
Burton believes that the lessons he learned in discipline and scheduling that came with his busy schedule at Hillsdale will serve him well post-graduation.
“I’ve become very comfortable with being disciplined, and I hope that will translate well in the military,” he said.
Burton considered the brevity of the award when asked about his message to his successors.
“I’d like to congratulate them, and also to remind them that this a very temporary and short-lived notch on, hopefully, a long lifespan of achievements,” he said.
Christa Green ‘20
When Christa Green and Reagan Dugan won Homecoming King and Queen in the fall of 2019, they were about to embark on a much longer homecoming reign than they could have imagined.
“It was so very sweet,” said Green. “In some ways, looking back, it’s almost sweeter after the senior year that we ended up having, because it was such a normal fall and obviously such a non-normal spring.”
Green was an RA for two years, including a year as head RA in Mauck, as well as a House Director in the Suites. She received her homecoming nomination through the Kappa sorority.
“It was sweet because I cared for so many students, and they were such a big impact on me, and it was a sweet gesture to realize that I was an impact on them,” Green said.
Green, who lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband Alexander, is currently interning with the Catholic Community Services as a mental health therapist for kids from age 5 – 17 with severe mental illnesses, while working on her Master’s in social work from George Fox University.
“My long term dream would be to open my own private practice and work as a therapist or counselor for women and children,” Green said.
Green was partly inspired to pursue social work with women after her experiences helping her fellow students at Hillsdale.
“I think since graduating and seeing other colleges, it really gives me a renewed awareness of how unique and good Hillsdale is at creating a good culture, I would love to try and recreate that good culture,” she said.
Reagan Dugan ‘20
Reagan Dugan jokes that being homecoming king was the last piece he needed on his resume to land his job as a Hillsdale admissions counselor.
“In our admissions office we have Matt Sauer and Alexander Green, who were both homecoming kings, so that was my in on my resume,” he said.
Dugan lived in Simpson for four years while working for admissions, Campus Rec, and the Women’s Basketball team.
“I mean, at the end of the day, I was honored that people wanted to give me that honor,” Dugan said. “It really meant a lot, I’ve tried to give a lot to Hillsdale, so it was cool to be up there.”
Dugan is now an admissions counselor, recruiting in Texas and the surrounding area. He moved to Dallas over the past summer after working for a year from Hillsdale.
His experience at Hillsdale has served to teach him a lot about the way to build and foster community and relationships.
“It’s hard to do when you’re not in Hillsdale, but finding people that are passionate about similar things is really key,” he said. “Hillsdale gave me a great model and a good foundation.”
Kendra Gensler ‘19
Although she’s married and teaching kindergarten in Tennessee, Kendra Lantis ’19, now Gensler, recalls being crowned as homecoming queen in 2018 as a fun moment filled with gratitude.
“I was very humbled and very thankful that people thought of me in that way,” Gensler said.
Gensler and her husband, who were married shortly after her graduation in 2019, moved to Tennessee permanently after his work became remote.
“My school is in Franklin, and we’re very involved in our church, we love it down here,” she said.
Gensler is deeply grateful for Hillsdale and the relationships she made here.
“Once you leave Hillsdale, you are continuously reminded how thankful you are that you went there, it’s a wonderful place where you have four years to just grow, be humbled, and just soak in all the knowledge and friendships, and character-building that happens,” she said.
Gensler’s advice to future homecoming kings and queens focused around the sense of gratitude and humility that she felt after being crowned.
“Take it as an honor, it’s a fun day, it’s something to have fun with,” she said. “It doesn’t really change anything afterwards, I would just say to be very thankful and humbled.”
Alexander Green, ‘19
When Alexander Green ’19 received the homecoming crown in 2018, he was surprised and grateful for the recognition of the relationships he had built as an RA during his time at Hillsdale.
“It was exciting, and just felt like a real sweet connection with the other students at the time,” Green said.
Among his other activities, Green was an RA and head RA in Niedfeldt residence for two successive years.
“It was something that I cared about, and I was thankful that other people seemed to recognize that,” he said.
Green is currently working for the college as an admissions counselor in the Pacific-Northwest region. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Christa Green, who graduated in 2020. He will be starting his master’s degree in character education at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
“We’re both interested in working in higher education, perhaps as Deans of Students someday,” said Christa Green ‘20. “What we saw at Hillsdale and the relational connections that happened there is something we really hope to perpetuate wherever we go.”
Green cherishes the memory and imparts some of his mom’s wisdom for the future homecoming king and queen.
“File it away for times when life gets difficult, then you can remember some sweet moments of your time at Hillsdale,” he said.