By Stacey Shannon—
MUNCIE, Ind.—Editor’s note: The Future Leaders of America series profiles high school seniors who display leadership qualities in their school and the community. The series is brought to you by Pridemark Construction.
For Burris Laboratory School senior Hannah Smith, helping other people and making a difference in the world are her priorities.
While she’s participated in various school sports like cross country, soccer, swimming and track, Smith embraces activities that can help others. During high school, for instance, she’s been a mentor to middle school students.
In 2020, she also participated in a group to encourage young people to register to vote.
“I really feel passionate about people voting and getting their opinions across and feeling liberated and like they can actually make change,” Smith said.
This year, she has been involved with Stop the Violence, a group whose goal is to identify problems in schools and the community, create awareness of them and help stop them. Smith also participated in a Shafer Leadership Academy activity where her group set up a refrigerator with free food for community members in need.
“I’m not someone who’s always involved in a lot of things,” she said. “But when I get the opportunity to be involved in something that’s going to make a difference, I like to join it.”
Being able to make a difference leads right to Smith’s post-high school plans. She is planning to attend Indiana Wesleyan University to major in social work.
“I like the idea of working with people,” Smith said. “I like one-on-one situations. Part of the reason I chose social work is social work is so broad, but I also know it’s just helping people. And my goal is to be able to make a difference, and social work can do that in many aspects.”
Smith herself has been helped through some of her own struggles with anxiety. She feels compassion for other students dealing with mental health issues. For her, listening to music, talking about her feelings, going to counseling and writing help her find a balance. In fact, last fall, Smith self-published a book on Amazon of her poetry called “If Only You Knew.”
“I struggle with anxiety, so I’ve definitely had a lot of issues balancing that and trying to figure out how to get through that,” she said.
One of the most important lessons she’s learned is to give herself grace. And that’s advice she would pass on to students who are coming behind her.
“Give yourself grace and make space for yourself,” Smith said. “I’m an introvert, so I definitely need time by myself. It’s kind of hard sometimes, but I think just making space in your day for yourself [is important].”
She also wants other students to understand how important kindness is and what a difference it can make.
“Be kind to people around you. Be super-inclusive as much as you can,” Smith said. “People who are inclusive are way nicer and cooler.”
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