AHS Senior Hayli Givens Mixes Poetry with Career Ambitions

AHS Senior Hayli Givens Mixes Poetry with Career Ambitions
Posted on 05/21/2024

Alleghany High School senior Hayli Givens, left, credits her grandmother, Susan, for having a strong influence in her life. Hayli, an honor graduate in the AHS Class of 2024, is the first poet laureate at Mountain Gateway Community College. 

LOW MOOR — Hayli Givens is an honor graduate in the Alleghany High School Class of 2024. She graduated earlier this month from Mountain Gateway Community College. She plans to become a forensic psychologist. And she is a poet laureate. 

That’s right, she’s the first-ever poet laureate at Mountain Gateway Community College. Typically, a poet laureate is appointed by a government or organization to promote poetry. The distinction generally includes composing poems for special occasions. Givens became Mountain Gateway’s poet laureate as part of the Virginia Community College System’s inaugural Poet Laureate and Artist Luminary competition.

When she began writing poetry about two years ago as a way to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety, little did Givens know that her newfound hobby would lead to her becoming a college poet laureate.

“It just happened,” Givens laughingly said of her being named poet laureate. “I got into poetry as sort of a coping mechanism. Some people knit, among other things, but I don’t have any hobbies like that, and then it was like one say, I said to myself, ‘Just start writing poetry when you are stressed.’”

Her winning poem at Mountain Gateway Community College is related to the strife and discord that are generating news headlines in the United States.  Her poem was about untapped potential in America and it fit the theme of this year’s Poet Laureate and Artist Luminary competition, which was, “I Belong.” 

“At the time I wrote the poem, all of these negative things were happening in the news. It was like everyone is against each other, and it seemed like it was just normal,” she said.   

Creative writing opportunities in Alleghany Highlands Public Schools have helped spark her flare and creativity for poetry writing, but Givens said dual-enrollment classes through the school system and the college have increased her thirst for learning. 

She particularly credits Steven Huffman, who teaches history and world geography at AHS, for helping her focus on her career goals. Huffman helped arrange for her to participate in the Model General Assembly (MGA) in Richmond. The program is designed to introduce high school students to the legislative process in Virginia, and Givens served as a lobbyist at this year’s MGA.  

Givens attended Covington High School for four years before she moved to Alleghany this school year as part of the consolidation of Alleghany and Covington High Schools. The combined high school is part of the July 2022 merger of Alleghany County Public Schools, Covington City Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center. The Alleghany Highlands Public Schools organization was created through the merger.

At Alleghany, Givens found herself in a larger school with more opportunities for students given the pooling of the resources of the previous two high schools. Both schools offered dual-enrollment classes that are now expanded to provide even more opportunities to students. Dual enrollment allows AHS students to take college-level courses at Mountain Gateway Community College. The courses count toward a high school diploma and a college degree. 

Thanks to her participation in dual-enrollment coursework, she received an associate degree from Mountain Gateway Community College on May 10. On June 1, she will receive her high school diploma. Her degree from MGCC is in general studies, and she will enroll at Randolph College in Lynchburg this fall to study criminology. GIvens’ long-term goal is to do postgraduate work at Old Dominion University in Norfolk and land a job as a forensic psychologist.

“The dual-enrollment courses have really benefited me,” she said of her experiences at Alleghany and Covington high schools.

She notes that the combining of the two high schools into one has gone well.

“People thought that we were merging two rival schools together, and people were going to clash. But that hasn’t been the case,” Givens said.

Due to the increased size of the combined high school and the combination of resources in the area, it has been possible for the school to offer additional opportunities to students.  

Through the influence of her grandmother, Susan Givens, Hayli has maintained a custom of doing volunteer work in her community. Her grandmother served as her Girl Scout leader for 11 years. In addition to volunteer work with Girl Scouts, GIvens has carried out service projects through the Beta Club and the National Honor Society at AHS. She is also part of a group of close friends who host a summer day camp each year for rising sixth graders.

As June approaches, the realization of graduating from high school and leaving her family and friends behind is beginning to hit home with Givens.

“It’s not graduating from high school that is bothering me, I am ready for that,” she said. “It’s knowing that I am going to soon be away from my family and friends that is going  to be hard.”

The Class of 2024 will be the first to graduate from the combined Alleghany High School. Graduation is scheduled for June 1 at 10 a.m. at Casey Field in Covington. The ceremony is being held in Covington due to ongoing roofing work and track construction at AHS.

The Alleghany Highlands Public Schools Division, with approximately 2,700 students, is jointly funded by Alleghany County and the City of Covington.

AHPS news and events are regularly updated on Facebook at AHPublicSchools, and on Instagram at ahpublicschools. Information is also available at www.ahps.k12.va.us.

Summer and fall registration is now open at Mountain Gateway Community College. Call Student Services at (540) 863-2820 to learn more. 







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