In this recurring monthly special, Nonahood News will be featuring those who’ve graduated from Lake Nona High School and will recognize the achievements they’ve made since. Some will have been a part of the first graduating class. Others might have graduated a few years later. Few have stayed in the Lake Nona area, and many have explored the world or are still doing so. Let’s see where life’s journey has taken them so far!
Year Graduated: 2013
Occupation: Event Representative at the Hyatt Regency Orlando on I-Drive
Current Location: Lake Nona, Orlando, FL
Courtney Hilkert lived in Orlando for quite some time before her family moved to the Lake Nona area.
“We lived in a different part of town that was starting to become a bad place. My parents wanted to move out of that area. Lake Nona was just developing, and I remember coming to visit our dirt lot here. It was about 2003 when we officially moved here. We have been here ever since. This place is not what it used to be.”
Hilkert was a part of the Lake Nona High School class of 2013, the first class to have spent all four years at the school. She had a goal to attend college, but throughout that journey, she still needed to discover herself and plan her future out.
“To be honest, the only goal I had was to go to college and to be successful in whatever I decided to do. You see, I knew I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know what I wanted to major in yet. I had a couple ideas in mind but wasn’t ready to make that decision yet. At the time, my real goal was to get accepted into a good college. I was originally wanting to go to Florida State University since my sister did. I applied to a ton of colleges and didn’t necessarily get into any of the ones I thought I would’ve attended. So, my goal from there was to make the best out of [it].”
Although Hilkert didn’t get accepted into her first college choice, she did manage to discover herself while away from home and grew while overcoming everyday challenges.
“I went to Florida Gulf Coast University my first year of college. I didn’t get into any of the colleges I wanted, but after visiting this campus I knew it would be the best choice for me. Well, it ended up being a good choice but not the best choice. I made some great friends at that campus, but I really struggled with myself there,” Hilkert opened up. “I ended up leaving after the first year and going back home to attend Valencia until I was qualified to get into UCF. I explored both Psychology and Education and ended up not choosing either as my major. I finished my year at Valencia and got accepted into UCF! UCF was known for their hospitality school, Rosen, which got me thinking. My dad has been a part of the events/hospitality business for as long as I could remember. I thought about following in his footsteps since hospitality was something I was always good at. I went to Rosen, joined a sorority and had the best two years of my life there,” exclaimed Hilkert. “The first two years were hard, but once I got to where I needed to be, I loved every minute of it. I graduated from Rosen in 2017 with a degree in Event Management. I immediately worked for Hyatt Regency Orlando after college and have been with them since. I worked my way up and am continuing to learn. I now am starting to take on my own events and, soon enough, I’ll be in a manager position. That’s my goal, at least!”
Taking life one step at a time, Hilkert is keeping her mind open for where she might end up in the next five years.
“I am not sure where I will end up. Not sure [if] it is in Florida, but I see myself hopefully still with Hyatt. If not Hyatt, then I plan to still be in the hotel business. I see myself married to my high school sweetheart (if you know me, you know who this is). I see myself happy and healthy and still horseback riding every weekend, hopefully with my own horse.”
Speaking of owning her own horse … Hilkert has always been completely and utterly obsessed with the majestic beasts. Riding and being surrounded by horses have always been passions of hers, and as life got busier she rode less. However, her story comes full circle as her love for the animals never faded, and she rediscovered her talent and hobby.
“I used to horseback ride when I was younger. I stopped for a long time but still continued to ride every now and then for fun. I always wanted to compete, so I recently picked it back up and competed in my first-ever event! I ended up winning two grand champion titles and had the best time. I have gotten better every day and am loving being back in the saddle. It is something that I have always loved, and I am still competing every month.”
If rediscovering yourself in college and planning your future out in just four challenging years means returning to your favorite pastime as a child better than ever, sign us all up!
Written for current and future Lake Nona alumni by a Lake Nona alumna. Check back in to our May issue to learn about our next Nona graduate(s)!