Ericka Scott once led something of a double life. As a freshman at Hillcrest High School, she was active in a host extracurriculars — cheerleading, basketball, volleyball and track — but she also got into the occasional fight. She remembers two altercations specifically. The first occurred at a football game, the second in the school gym. Neither, she says, would have happened if she had been more careful about her associations.

“A lot of parents and teachers told me, ‘You have a great future in front of you, so don’t let anybody ruin it,’” Scott remembers.

She took their advice to heart and began distancing herself from bad influences in her life.

“It just looked very tacky,” she says. “When people [heard about the altercations] they were like, ‘Oh, she’s involved in all these [extracurriculars] but she’s getting in fights.’ That doesn’t look good. I want everything people say about me to be positive.”

She seems to be doing pretty well in that regard. Dr. Durgha Shanmugan-Johnson, her former physics teacher, says Scott completely “turned life around by focusing on classes.” She also took on a few leadership roles. This year, her final at Hillcrest, she serves as varsity cheerleading captain, varsity basketball captain and varsity volleyball captain. But that doesn’t mean it was all smooth sailing after ninth grade. Last year, Scott found herself in an abusive relationship. She says her boyfriend at the time only hit her once, but it was hard enough to send her to the emergency room for stitches and leave emotional scars.

“I had to get three stitches in my mouth,” she remembers. “It was very heartbreaking. We’d been together for almost three years and it just came out of nowhere. I don’t know why he was so angry, but he took his anger out on me.”

If not for the support of the Hillcrest community, Scott says she may not have had the strength to break things off. Shanmugan-Johnson was one of her biggest supporters during that difficult time.

“She was there for me basically like a second mom,” Scott says. “She was a mentor.”

The teacher is modest about her role in Scott’s success. “I just told her, ‘You’re a great leader, do you know that? You have potential.’”

Though she’s been through a lot, Scott remains optimistic about the future. This fall, she’ll begin working toward a nursing degree at Texas Southern University in Houston.

“I think it’s going to be a new experience,” she says. “Maybe challenging at times, but life brings challenges.”

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