All who knew Chyriell Drain-Hill are still adjusting to life without her huge smile and larger-than-life presence. Chyriell passed away suddenly on Sunday, April 17, 2016.
Chyriell graduated from East St. Louis Sr. High School in 1979. She received her BS in Education in 1983 and her MS in Education in 1990 from Illinois State University. She was the Assistant Director of Admissions for ISU from 1984-1991. She taught Special Ed for two years at East St. Louis, followed by seven years with Cahokia High School’s Special Ed department. She started at Belleville East in 2002 and served as Director of Counseling for the past twelve years.
Her commitment and dedication to students was exemplified by her last College Bus Tour in March. Despite her health concerns and not feeling well, she said she had to do it “for the kids”. Her focus was always on what was best for kids. She set high standards for her students, and she knew they would rise to meet them. She had a knack for being able to talk straight to students and help them see how their choices and behaviors were impeding their success. They knew she was sincere and accepted her advice. After her passing, many students came forward to leave notes and make statements attesting to this.
Chyriell was known to be bold and outspoken at times. A woman of faith, her pastor said at her funeral that she feared no one but God. It made no difference to her if you were a church bishop, a superintendent, or state senator; she spoke her truth and expressed her ideas with passion and conviction. She would do whatever was necessary for people that sought her help. One of her greatest gifts as a counselor was to make everyone feel heard. She could be in a huge hurry, but you’d never know it, and she’d never show it; she’d make you think that she was waiting in her office just for you to go talk to her. It’s no wonder so many students referred to her affectionately as “Mama Hill”, or their “school mom”, or “second mom”. She was happy to help ANY student who was lucky enough to walk into her office. And that’s why students…and parents…and East faculty… would flock to her office; they knew she’d take good care of them! She had an enviable ability to work with people. It was inspiring! And it’s not something that someone could imitate; it was a gift, … uniquely hers.
Chyriell will be remembered for her infectious laugh and easy smile. She definitely was “one of a kind” and will be missed by all.
Chyriell’s church is establishing a scholarship in her name. Donations may be made to New Life in Christ Church and may be mailed to:
New Life in Christ Interdenominational Church
689 Scott Troy Road
Lebanon, IL 62254
Proud alumnus, union member, and educator in District #201 since 2006.
Dr. Hentze is the author of High Finance with Hentze, a monthly blog that provides news about District 201's current financial state.