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Academy senior reaches new heights with mountain climbing experience

Photo submitted/Brookhaven Academy senior Julianna Mills recently sumitted Mount Shasta in California as part of a Christian

Photo submitted/Brookhaven Academy senior Julianna Mills recently sumitted Mount Shasta in California as part of a Christian

A Brookhaven Academy senior took many steps — literally and figuratively — to become closer to the Lord this summer, setting her up to have a successful last year of high school.

Julianna Mills traveled to JH Ranch in Etna, California, to attend a Christian camp that allowed her to hike Mount Shasta, one of the tallest peaks in California, standing at 14,179 feet.

“I had the opportunity to go to California and climb a mountain with my sister Caroline, who’s a freshman at Co-Lin,” Mills said.

Mills said this was her third year to go to JH Ranch, qualifying her to participate in Track II, the most intense version of the camp.

Julianna Mills

Julianna Mills

“Track II offers two options,” she said. “You get to either bike 109 miles to the Pacific Coast or climb Mount Shasta. Caroline and I were like, ‘We can always ride a bike. Let’s climb a mountain.’”

Mills trained with a personal trainer for several months leading up to her trip.

“I have struggled with ankle injuries, so that kind of caused a setback at times,” she said.

When the time came to actually climb Mount Shasta, Mills said it took three days.

“The first day, we hiked for about five hours,” she said. “The second day, we woke up at 1 a.m. and hiked for 16 hours. It was freezing. It was literally the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it taught me more than I could have imagined.”

One of the biggest lessons Mills learned by climbing the mountain was to lean on the Lord.

“I started with physical strength, and when I ran out of that, I relied on my mental strength,” Mills said. “When I lost all my physical and mental strength, then my spiritual strength kicked in. I was praying the entire way up that mountain, thinking, ‘Please Lord, help me up this mountain.’”

Mills’ prayers were answered when she summited the mountain, taking in the world from 14,179 feet.

“Through the ankle, through the cold, through the no physical and no mental strength, I prayed, and the Lord literally put me in his hand and took me up the last three hours of that mountain,” she said.

“A lot of people asked what I learned from my climb,” Mills continued. “The Lord put this experience in my life to say, ‘OK, this high school year is going to be a mountain, but I am here. You have to make so many life altering decisions this year, but lean on me.’”

After summiting, Mills climbed back down Mount Shasta, ready to tackle her senior year.

“I think senior year has actually been my favorite year of high school, for sure,” she said.

Mills is a member of the Positive Choices Club, History Club, Science Club, National Honors Society, the soccer team and the cheerleading team.

In addition to all of her school activities, she tutors five students three days a week in math.

“I was actually in the seventh grade when I started tutoring,” she said. “It really didn’t get big until this year. I tutor geometry, algebra and seventh grade math.”

Mill has been able to share her mountain climbing experience with God to the students she tutors, and thrives on teaching them.

“I get so much joy from making kids feel important and smart and that they can do something,” she said. “I enjoy breaking things down and then watching the light bulb go off in their head.”

So far, Mills has applied to Mississippi State University and Mississippi College. Although she has not decided what she would like to pursue academically, several career paths have piqued her interest.

“I love working period,” Mills said. “I thrive on being busy. I have considered studying interior design, education, biomedical engineering, and many others. Through tutoring, I’ve pretty much stamped that I want to do something involving kids in the future.”

No matter where her life takes her, Mills know God will be with her every step of the way, just like he was when she climbed the mountain.