The original school for expatriate children in Sentani was begun with 4 students in 1958 by the Christian and Missionary
Alliance. It was located at Pos 7 on the campus which now houses a CMA national Bible school. The original school building was formerly the home of pilot Ed Ulrich, and was later replaced by more modern classroom buildings. The first students were Larry Lake, John Cutts, Barton Boggs, and Beverly Boggs. Kenny Troutman and the Larsen girls, Marlene and Romaine, arrived a few weeks later that first semester. There was only one teacher, a Miss Armia Heikkinen, who eventually taught as many as six grades. Students remember her reading "The Wind in the Willows" and "Paddle to the Sea" to everyone, and teaching math lessons which were interrupted by the din of rainstorms on the aluminum roof.
Miss Heikkinen’s remembers more: "The home and the other buildings were fragile affairs. On the inside the walls were Masonite sheets, brown in color. But the schoolroom soon got a lovely coat of bright paint. The blackboards were Masonite, painted with blackboard paint, which worked very well. The first desks were made by a carpenter in Hollandia [Jayapura], and patterned after the Dutch desks, with a board for a footrest and a hole for an inkwell. All the school supplies and books both for study and the library came from the States. This required sending in an order for supplies at least three months before they were needed. When the crates of books and supplies arrived, the children helped carry things in. In fact, I still remember well when Mr. Mike (Einar Mickelson) drove the mission's red pickup truck to the school from the dock in Hollandia, on a bright
afternoon when we should have had classes. Instead, we were conscripted to carry boxes and to help unpack.
“In those days, I had a brass handbell, which I used for years to announce the beginning of the school day and call the children from recess and the lunch hour which included nap time. I also taught music, which I loved. I played the violin, and conducted music appreciation classes in my living room where I played classical music on my record player. [Fittingly, when the school expanded a few years after her departure from Papua around 1962, her former house became the music classroom, with a band room and practice rooms.)
“Because it was difficult to get supplies, I often had to improvise with what was here. I was able to build a microscope from a kit, and one day I taught the children about electrical circuits by wiring up an old telephone on the wall, asking the children to link hands, and asking one of them to crank the phone. This sent a current surging through the circle, which was quite a dramatic illustration for them all. I compared Cyclops Mountain to Narnia, and read to the students from news magazines to help them keep abreast of the space race and other world events. I believed strongly in experiential learning, and brought different-shaped leaves and many kinds of seeds to class for botany units in 3rd grade, and jars of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg to touch and to smell and for a 5th grade unit on world exploration into the Spice Islands.”
This school developed until it served grades K-8, but for many years the graduating middle-school students left to continue their education overseas: at Dalat in Malaysia, Faith in the Philippines, and at Ukarumpa in PNG. In the mid 1980’s, the Summer Institute of Linguistics, after many years of prodding by parents such as Marilyn Gregerson, felt led to begin the process of establishing a high school. This led to an intermission sponsored high school in 1987, which in 1991 was combined with the K-8 CMA school.
As the students of SIS grew into high school age, a desire for a secondary school resulted in the establishment of an intermission high school in 1987. This intermission high school was called Hillcrest International School (HIS). In 1995, SIS and HIS were consolidated under a single Board of Directors. In 1999, the Pos 7 campus was closed and the elementary/middle school program moved to the high school site where we are currently located. Due to government regulation changes in 2014, the name of Hillcrest International School was changed to Hillcrest School.
Hillcrest School is accredited with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). HIS is also a member of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and the East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools (EARCOS).
The school continues to expand with Hillcrest Wamena receiving official status in 2016. The Wamena campus offers first through fifth-grade classes.