Featured #bloomgirl: Hannah Johnston; Americorps Volunteer!
This month’s featured #bloomgirl is Hannah Johnston! Hannah had an internship with bloom doing graphic design and has helped our team so much. Recently, Hannah spent a year volunteering with Americorps at Tumbleweed in Billings, Montana. Hannah is talented, creative, sweet, and has a huge heart for helping others. We are so inspired by Hannah and we know you will be too. Read more about her below!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I am a 23-year old, hammock loving, mountain climbing, 80’s music dancing, taproom connoisseur. Originally from Millington, Maryland, I grew up the oldest of four. In the spring of 2019, I graduated from Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Design and a minor in Photography. After graduation, I served a year in an Americorps State and National program in Billings, Montana, working with a non-profit youth advocate center for homeless, runaway, trafficked, and otherwise at-risk youth and young adults. Shoutout to Tumbleweed, the incredible non-profit I served with!
How has this amazing volunteer opportunity changed you as a person and how is it changing others?
At Tumbleweed, I served as the Volunteer Coordinator and helped build their volunteer program from scratch. Not only did I have the opportunity to work alongside the most thoughtful volunteers, but also to build one on one relationships with the youth and young adults Tumbleweed served. My day to day responsibilities included the following: walking volunteers through a project, building volunteer training programs, paperwork, prepping lunch for our kiddos, playing basketball (and defending my champion title) with our young adults, and helping to de-escalate crises in our drop-in center — all in the same day! One of the reasons I loved my day-to-day was the unpredictability of what that day might bring.
If you asked me to sum up my volunteer year in one word, I would choose transformative. I choose this word for a number of reasons. I was humbled and shocked by the realities of young adults, the same age as me, who are battling homelessness and human trafficking among many other challenges. It changed the way I understand privilege, the effects of failed systems on young people, and the truest sense of personal resilience. Walking into this experience with an open heart and open mind gave me the chance to be pushed out of my comfort zone in so many ways.
How did Americorps and Jesuit Volunteer Corps get its start?
Americorps, a voluntary civil society program often seen as a “Domestic Peace Corps”, first began in 1994 with the mission to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering with non-profits and public agencies in the United States. Today, there are over 50,000 locations in all 50 states with around 300,000 Americorps and Senior Corps members.
How did you come to team up with them for this amazing opportunity?
While searching for an Americorps position that was right for me, I came across Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest. JVCNW is an awesome organization which responds to local community needs in the Northwest region of the United States by recruiting, placing, and supporting volunteers who provide value-centered service grounded in faith. I chose to serve as an Americorps member through JVCNW because of their core values: community, simple living, social and ecological justice, and spirituality/reflection. I made some life long friends with the strong women I lived with, I went an entire year without wifi and getting an antenna for our box TV felt like Christmas morning! I learned an extraordinary amount from our at-risk and homeless youth who we spent our days with.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
There are many people to thank for inspiring me to become involved, work towards justice, and to stay hungry to learn. One of the biggest contributors to this was my University Chaplain. Along with being a bad-ass example of a justice warrior, he ended every chapel service with this blessing:
“Go out into the world in peace. Have courage. Hold fast to what is good. Return no one evil for evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted. Support the weak, help the suffering, honor ALL people. Loving and serving in the Lord your God, and rejoicing always in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
How awesome is that? Peace, courage, loving all people, no matter what. Hearing that message every Sunday for four years, I couldn’t help but think, "how can I embody this?" "How can I do more?" "How can I push myself out of my comfort zone to fight for what is right?"
I am also always inspired by growth. My friends always quote me saying, “Let's work to become the best versions of ourselves.” Every day is a chance to grow, to “bloom” into a better version of who you were yesterday. I have found the best way to grow and to learn is to push yourself outside of what is comfortable. When you challenge yourself to be uncomfortable, you oftentimes learn to broaden your perspective, you tend to listen more than speak, and you almost always learn more about who you are. What could be better motivation than wanting to become a better human?!
What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced during this volunteer opportunity? How did you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges I faced in my volunteer year was learning how to process the feelings that came along with the stories and lives of the kids we were working with. The majority of the kids we worked with had struggles with addiction, homelessness, abuse, foster care, and human trafficking. Any of these would be hard to swallow, but many of our youth faced multiple (if not all) of these battles. How do you sit down with someone, love on them, play basketball, and then leave at the end of the day unfazed by their story and situation? Long story short, you don’t. But! There is a learning curve on processing through these feelings and self-care. (Shoutout to every and all social workers!)
I overcame this challenge in two ways: shift in perspective and finding a self-care practice that worked for me. Although it’s important to acknowledge the real barriers and struggles our youth faced, I found it equally important to focus on how many of them were overcoming these barriers. Resilience. These youth are the raw definition and example of what resilience looks like. I learned to appreciate and listen to the heartbreaking stories, but I also learned to shift my perspective into seeing how strong of a warrior they were. Choosing to look at someone based on their strengths rather than their challenges is empowering and kind. I also learned how important self-care was to mental health and overcoming the challenges that came along with the work. To me, I found running to be an extraordinary outlet for my feelings at the end of a long day. I could leave all my grief, sadness, anger on the treadmill, shower, and go home with a clearer mind.
What are some key learning experiences that shaped you?
Every day at my non-profit was a day of learning. You never knew what was going to come your way each day you walked through the door. Above all, one of the most important things I learned is that it takes a community response to create sustainable change. It is not just the job of a few, every person plays a part — it takes a village. Each and every one of us has to do our own little (or big!) part in making our communities a better place. Go volunteer! Educate yourself! Start talking and bringing awareness to the issues that matter most to you. You are strong and capable of creating great change — in fact, you are needed to do so!
What are your favorite bloom products and why?
The Vision Planner is definitely my favorite! It is the perfect combination of helping me stay organized and also motivated. It’s so fun to start off your year by creating a vision board right there in the front of your planner. There are awesome sections to help you set personal and professional goals and visualize the ways you want to grow in the upcoming year. This planner is also your own personal hype-woman — starting off each month with an inspirational quote to keep ya in tip-top shape! Plus, who doesn’t love a cute, trendy design?
Do you know someone doing something amazing in your community? Nominate them to be a featured #bloomgirl by filling out this form: https://bloomplanners.com/pages/bloomgirls
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