Success is easily defined in a few words. Merriam-Webster defines success as “the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.” Most undergraduate students would agree with this definition and when asked twenty years from now how they would deem their lives successful the reply would mention a well-paying job, a nice house, a nice car... Significance, however, is not so easily defined.
The further Hanna ventures outside of her comfort zone of home the more she realizes how blessed her life is with a family who loves her and supports her to thrive through secondary education so that she may find success. This opening of her mind comes from the understanding of the magnitude of work to be done in our community…our community, on the local, regional, national, and international levels because at the end of the day we all live in one world. And yet we do not live in one world. Vast socially constructed socioeconomic inequalities separate the upper-class from the middle and lower classes; wealth and poverty truly divide us.
At Vanderbilt our culture is built on educating others so that they may have the capability to succeed. Inside her classes she is learning about Medicine, Health & Society and the Spanish language. Outside of her classes she is learning how to build a living community out of 230 strangers assigned to live in Gillette House. The most important lesson that she is learning in and out of the classroom is how to focus her time and efforts on ideas, projects, and people that she is truly passionate about, which stop her from glancing at the clock because she is absolutely engaged and unable to realize that time is passing. This is when she finds her life is significant.
It is impossible to know exactly what her future holds as a career, however, the experiences that she has had and is working toward definitely help provide an outline of where she is headed.
As a first-year student, she became involved in the student organization, Best Buddies, aiming to enhance the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships. She works on the Best Buddies Board as an activities co-coordinator, organizing the activities that bring the entire organization together every month. The summer after her first-year at Vandy she was placed through Best Buddies as a counselor for a girl with special needs so that she could attend a regular sleep-away summer camp for Jewish children in Indiana. Her buddy is fifteen but appears to be around the age of ten. She has both cognitive and physical disabilities due to an extremely rare metabolic disorder that causes her cells to only go into anaerobic metabolism. She cannot speak but is able to communicate using her “talker” which is a small electronic device she wears around her neck that is touch sensitive. As her counselor, Hanna was responsible for everything from being with her 24 hours a day, making sure that she took her medications, facilitating her social interactions with the rest of camp, altering daily activities so that she was able to participate to the best of her abilities, feeding her the best diet possible off of camp food, and taking care of her hygiene in the bathroom.
While at Vanderbilt, she has been able to bring other groups of students together to also find significance within community service. Working as a Residential Advisor and a VUceptor, Hanna incorporates community service into all of her programs to help introduce first-year students to the many opportunities available in TN to give back. She has lead groups of students to volunteer with YES, the Dismas House, Room at the Inn, & Second Harvests Food Bank which all strive to help serve the underprivileged populations in Nashville. As an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) site leader, Hanna co-lead a group of students to Greenfield, NH to volunteer at the Crotched Mountain Foundation which serves children and adults with disabilities and their families. The group was dispersed into positions among the school, hospital, outpatient clinic, and brain injury center where they shadowed students, working as mentors and living alongside wonderful people who are working hard to fit into the outside world.
This summer she traveled to Quetzaltengo, Guatemala with a VISAGE Program where she began her research in family health & nutrition and volunteered at Primeros Pasos, a rural medical clinic. Focused on exploring topics of global significance, this experience is helping her to gain a holistic understanding of the many interrelated dimensions of health, development, and society in Guatemala. She will be continuing to develop her research this fall with the hope of finding better methods to improve family health in Quetzaltenango.
Hanna finds success and significance in her life when she serves others. The youngest of her family, she never had a chance to care for another person the way she cared for her buddy at camp. Her experiences with her buddy and the people at the Crotched Mountain Foundation solidified her decision to aspire to a career in nursing. Furthermore, her ongoing project to Guatemala is giving her the tools she will need to reach her career goals to be a multilingual nurse and to advocate for communities in need of transformational change in their health care constitution. As an ENGAGE scholar, she plans on graduating from Vanderbilt’s Nursing Program as a multilingual nurse practitioner specializing in pediatrics so that one day she may work in a rural community for a non-profit similar to Primeros Pasos, providing quality care to children and their families who would otherwise live without adequate heath care.