On a cold Saturday afternoon in St. Paul, things were heating up in the Schoenecker Arena. The St. Thomas women’s basketball team was leading Oral Roberts. A late-game rally had left the Tommies within striking distance of a win – they were just two points down with seconds left. With an impressive assist from Amber Scalia ’26, point guard Jade Hill ’25 found herself with the ball and the opportunity of a lifetime. Cool as the freezing winds outside, Hill made a three-pointer as the buzzer went off, bringing euphoria to the St. Thomas crowd.
Hill credits the season-defining moment to her teammates, and her faith.
“I'm always trusting God; I pray a lot,” Hill said. “All the glory goes to him because he helps me stay calm and gives me that reassurance that everything’s going to be fine.”
A three-year starter for the Tommies, Hill ranks No. 2 among Summit League players in scoring and assists. And she recently went down in the university’s record books as the first women’s basketball student-athlete to surpass 1,000 points in the Division I era.
“Jade is making history in our program,” women’s basketball head coach Ruth Sinn said. “She continues to make positive strides. We ask a lot from her at both ends of the floor, and we know we can always count on her.”
Hill’s playmaking and leadership make her a standout on the court, but off the court, she’s preparing to guide the next generations to strive toward greatness. An elementary education major, the junior wants to make an impact on future student-athletes, just as her parents, teachers and coaches made an impact on her.
“That’s what my parents taught me: Children follow their leaders,” Hill said. “You want to be a good example to them and teach them well and always set that high standard for them and call them up.”
To Hill, education provides the opportunity for everyone to evolve and discover their potential. Helping foster those opportunities is something she sees as extremely rewarding.
“I love being around children. I love teaching them and seeing them grow,” Hill said. “I think that’s what inspired me to be a teacher.”
Seeing how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted racial groups differently, Hill wants to avoid similar disparities from affecting future generations.
“Although it’s been really hard since COVID, I still want to be part of that group that inspires children and helps them grow and achieve and kind of bridge that gap that happened during COVID.”
The School of Education at the University of St. Thomas prepares students to face those disparities. A course called Diversity and Cultural Competence with Dr. Chelda Smith was particularly eye-opening for Hill.
“That class really kind of changed my perspective,” Hill said. “It opened my eyes to biases I didn’t even know I had, how I have internalized them from such a young age.”
The course is designed to equip students with the knowledge, practices, and dispositions to humanize those who are historically underserved while examining the crucial role of educators in influencing positive, systematic change for social justice, said Smith. She added that “Jade is an exceptional person and an amazing student.”
Hill has put into practice what she’s learned through the time she spent helping students at the Maxfield Elementary Collaborative Learning School, a unique partnership with the School of Education. Maxfield serves primarily African American, Hmong and Latino students in St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood.
One of the biggest lessons Hill said she’s learned: growing through accountability. It’s something she hopes to bring to the next generation.
“I think when you’re a leader, building relationships with everybody and calling people up out of love … because you care for them, is important,” Hill said.
I think when you’re a leader, building relationships with everybody and calling people up out of love … because you care for them, is important.”
As a student-athlete, she knows that it takes a village to build a community, a team, and a culture. She credits the St. Thomas coaching staff on creating a culture of community on the women’s basketball team.
“Our coaches’ morals and their vision for us, I think that’s what really makes it so special and successful,” Hill said. “It starts with the coaches and trickles down to the players.”
For example, she and her basketball teammates have volunteered at Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit that packs and ships meal kits overseas.
“We’ve done a lot of things together,” Hill said. “And it’s honestly very enjoyable and just nice going back and doing it with people you love and know you’re helping for a greater cause.”