Talk about the drive to succeed. Graduating in May with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and criminology, two cheerleading national championships and successful completion of her first year as an ROTC cadet, Atlanta native Ashanté Hill still wants to go farther.
“I have a lot of plans,” said Hill. “Right now, I’m going through the enlistment process for the Army National Guard. While I’m waiting to start my basic training I’m going to be working at the Atlanta Braves Stadium with their security team. Then I’ll be at basic training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for roughly five or six months. Once I come back, I’ll be beginning grad school, continuing with ROTC and working with the Braves during baseball season. Then, when I get my master’s degree I’ll be ready to commission as an Army officer.
Whew! Maybe she’ll have a chance to take a deep breath after she accomplishes all of that.
Hill’s drive to achieve her goals has always enabled her to overcome obstacles thrown in her path.
“I’ve pretty much been cheering my whole life,” said Hill. “I knew I wanted to go to college to cheer but I didn’t start cheering at Georgia Southern my freshman year because I tore my ACL and meniscus my senior year in high school. It was a lengthy rehab because I had to have two procedures to fix my knee. When I got to Georgia Southern, I did rehab at the RAC through their athletic trainers and worked with them that whole semester. Once I got cleared for athletics, I started getting involved with the cheer program, working on the necessary skills I needed to make the team. I guess it worked out in my favor.”
Cheering with the team did work out in Hill’s favor, helping earn the team the 2021 and 2022 national championships. (The 2020 championships were canceled due to COVID-19.) It was the seventh national championship for Georgia Southern’s all-girl team at the National Cheerleaders Association competition.
But Hill had obstacles to overcome with cheerleading too.
“The 2020 season was cut short due to the pandemic,” said Hill. “It was a tough time and nationals were canceled. The next year we got to cheer in the stands for all sports and we won nationals. Then as we were preparing for nationals in 2022 our coach had to be out for a medical leave. Our assistant coaches and some former cheerleaders stepped in to help. It was difficult because we had to adjust to a very different coaching style. Everybody really had that hunger for the ring though. We pulled together and did what we had to do. And once we won it, the feeling was so amazing.”
You would think that with studying for her degree, interning with the Chatham County District Attorney’s Victim Witness Assistance Program one summer and cheerleading the rest of the time, Hill wouldn’t have time for anything else.
“I thought I needed more of a challenge and something with longevity,” said Hill. “I come from a family with a military background and felt that ROTC would give me more of a challenge. My older sister has been in ROTC and is getting ready to commission right now. So, I knew that it would help me pay for my master’s program. So even though ROTC is challenging, I actually love it.”
Hill gets up before dawn to start her day with ROTC.
“Getting up that early in the morning and going to PT and doing all these physical activities that your average person is not doing at 6:00 in the morning, gave me a sense of motivation,” said Hill. “This is what I signed up for. This is what I want to do. This is what I have to do. So I was able to push through it.”
When Hill first started her Georgia Southern career, she thought she wanted to be a lawyer. That changed as she began to explore other options available as a criminal justice and criminology major.
“I actually took an investigation class with Officer Spencer Riner,” said Hill. “And we were able to see the actual footage from some gruesome crimes committed in the surrounding area. It was a lot to take in but I thought this just might actually be something I might want to do. That was the class that really got me thinking I would, in a perfect world, start off in GBI and then work my way up to FBI.”
Hill’s upcoming job with the Atlanta Braves was facilitated through ROTC and might just help her with her GBI/FBI long-term plans.
“One of the reasons I took on the job with the Braves was because of networking,” said Hill. “The hiring manager told me the FBI is normally there, and that would be a good way to network while I am in grad school. So once I graduate I’ll already have those connections.”
Hill has already had substantial support and made connections while at Georgia Southern.
“Captain Kimbrel, and then talking to Sergeant Shade and Mr. Gamble, I just feel that all three of them really want the best for me,” said Hill. “And they’ll support me no matter what decision I end up making with military service.”
When asked where she gets her drive, Hill is quick to answer.
“I really think I get my drive from my parents. My mom’s biggest thing is ‘you’re going to have to work hard now to be set later or you’re going to just be getting by.’ And I remember coming out of high school, my dad was talking to me and my sister. He said, ‘either y’all are going to college or y’all are going to the Army.’ Well, lucky for him, we did both.”
Hill is not nearly finished meeting all her goals yet, but the future looks bright for the young woman with incredible drive who can push through obstacles.
“I just know who I am. I want to be successful in life. So in order to do that, you’ve got to go through some challenges. You’ve got to work hard. But I see myself being successful.”
We do too.