“Stole The Show”


Brianna O’Callaghan, Reporter

The girl I sat across from at a Third Gen coffee table was unrecognizable. No longer was she the girl who would spill applesauce on the lunch table to see what it looked like, or the girl who would break out in a musical act in the middle of a Walmart, although the latter still seems likely. She was the graduation speaker of the class of 2021 with new bangs to prove her readiness for a fresh start in three months. 

As the year comes to an end, I figured why not give a tribute to the seniors as we leave. Although I could write a book on her high school career, I learned so much more about Jillian Parks’ beginning and how she was raised into the person she is now. 

“It was hard growing up and continuously splitting the attention of my parents between one, two, and then three, and eventually four siblings,” Jillian Parks said. “But I still grew up acting like the center of attention. I would put on shows in my backyard, on my deck, and on the spot, I would write musicals for them to perform for our neighborhood.”

The Parks family seems to come straight from a show themselves. With a theatre costume shop literally in their home and four family members in the arts, this family could put the Von Trapps to shame. 

“Lots of performing,” Parks said. “I started my first show when I was seven years old after we moved to Washington for a year. And I grew up watching my dad perform. My dad has always been a performer, like when we go places, he is the one you watch and he is the one you talk to. And I’ve always wanted to be like that. I’m lucky I have a performer father because I need it.”

Moving around was a theme in Jillian’s life. From Illinois to Washington back to Illinois to Texas, the different schools and restarting of social life was difficult for her. 

“My dad ended up quitting his job, and we had to move to Texas,” Parks said. “It was awful, it was just so bad. I moved here in 6th grade, which is one of your very formative years. I had gone from having so many friends and feeling very connected to people to feeling like no one cared if I was there.”

Although her last move had a rough start, Jillian found her love of theatre once again when she met College Park theatre. 

“Then I got into 9th grade, I met Emily Freeman, and everything got better from there,” Parks said. “High school was so much better than my 6th to 8th grade years. I started theatre, and that has been a rollercoaster, I can tell you that.”

Staring and killing in roles in The Sound of Music, Freaky Friday, and Sense and Sensibility, she leaves theatre students with a precedent to follow.  So it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they heard Jillian was going into theatre in college, but she found that her purpose might lie somewhere else. 

“Eventually I decided to start exploring other hobbies and elective classes, and I found the class that literally changed the trajectory of my life,” Parks said. “I joined journalism and obviously Newspaper, and I knew pretty quickly that this was something worth pursuing. Mrs. Walton and my classmates were the type of people I wanted to be around all the time. Seriously, it was life changing.”

Jillian’s plan for college has changed drastically. From considering options as diverse as University of Texas to a college in Europe and studying law to journalism, it took her a while to find her calling, but she found it. Starting in August of this year, she will be majoring in American Studies and minoring in Journalism.

“I’m going to Hillsdale College in Michigan,” Parks said. “It’s this little baby private college, and it’s half the size of College Park, so that’s pretty exciting. And everyday I find a new thing I’m excited about, just little things the town or the school does.”

As our interview came to an end, and as our other senior member, Norberto Castillo called it, we delved into the “deep questions.” My last question to Jillian was this: What will you take away from these last four years?

“In high school I realized I had to be okay with meeting people who didn’t like who I was or what I stood for,” Parks said. “And I had to somehow find peace with the fact that I’m still changing as a person, and I’m going to make mistakes, and I’m going to hurt people and say things out of line, and I have to be willing to forgive myself and move on. And again, I know not everyone is going to like me, but I know I’m going to impact a lot of people just by speaking, writing, or the way that I treat them.”