Alumna Finds Her Purpose on 'The Last Frontier'
When Lauren Hahn ’11 departed for her AmeriCorps service project in Sitka, Alaska, last August, she expected to see grizzly bears and snow squalls. Instead, she found a small town with more inspiration than snowflakes.
Like so many young people, Hahn wasn’t sure what to do when she graduated from college. As a senior in international business at Scranton, she had the grades. She had the resume. She just didn’t know what came next.
“I feel the purpose of my life is to do something worthwhile,” Hahn says. “When I was looking at my options, I didn’t see anything that was worthwhile.”
It wasn’t long before she turned her sights to service organizations like AmeriCorps. Hahn was heavily involved at Scranton and learned that through a service project, she could get the experience she needed while finding the purpose she desperately wanted.
For the better part of a year, Hahn has split her 50-hour workweeks between Pacific High, an alternative school, and the Hames Center, a volunteer-run community center.
Hahn hasn’t seen a ton of snow – or a grizzly bear for that matter – but she has learned a lot about what you can accomplish with teamwork.
“I’m just amazed by how many people volunteer in so many different ways across the community,” Hahn says. “They are very passionate about helping.”
At the Hames Center, Hahn works with 26 other volunteers organizing programs and running day-to-day operations.
Not long ago, the center closed due to lack of funding. Now it’s thriving, offering standard workout equipment, an after-school program, as well as Zumba, TRX, spinning and salsa dancing classes.
“Lauren is a spitfire. She loves what she’s doing,” says Carrie Johnson, the Hames Center’s manager. “She always wants to dive in and grow more in everything that she’s going to do.”
Hahn’s experience at Pacific has shown her a different perspective on education. Rather than listening to lectures and taking tests, students at Pacific learn by working on project-based assignments.
In history class, students recently learned about civil rights by building a 5-foot model of the Berlin Wall and covering it with facts about oppression.
As lunch instructor, Hahn developed a similar project for her class. Every day her students budget, plan and cook lunch for the 25-person school. The students can make anything they want – chicken parmesan, shish kabobs, Spanish quiche – as long as it fits within FDA guidelines.
The program has been so successful, Hahn hopes to develop guidelines to help other non-traditional schools stay on budget and in compliance with FDA regulations.
Hahn says teaching has shown her a side of young people she never expected to see. She learned that even the unmotivated kids open up once you find something that speaks to them.
Recently, Hahn saw a normally unfocused student pore himself into a speech for his Civil Air Patrol club. He was passionate about the leadership role he had in the Air Force feeder program and it showed in his work.
“Once they have their heart in it, they’ll show you their heart,” Hahn says.
The University helped make community service a part of who she is, Hahn adds. She feels fortunate to have continued that in her professional life and hopes to serve in Sub-Saharan Africa through the Peace Corps after her time in Alaska ends in July.
“I’d be willing to go anywhere,” Hahn says. “The cultural experience you get being in the Peace Corps anywhere would just be extraordinary.”