HannahonePictured (from left to right) are VISIONS volunteers Hannah Burke, RBR student Hannah Haugenes of Little Silver, Anna Weissman (leader), and Dione McClenaghan constructing one of the five dog houses built for the ASPCA in Turkey Creek, Mississippi.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School
Red Bank Regional High School student Hannah Haugenes of Little Silver, a creative writing major in the school’s Academy of Visual & Performing Arts, is fascinated by other cultures and believes in the importance of community service. She is also working toward an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma in the high school’s IB program. So when she contemplated how she would spend part of her summer vacation, Hannah was very excited to join a Visions Service Group (VISIONS) for a week of community service in the country’s Gulf Coast region, an area that still bears the scars of Hurricane Katrina.Working with 19 other high school students and guided by five chaperones from around the United States, Hannah helped revitalize community gardens, renovate houses, reinforce a bridge, and even build doghouses for a local animal shelter. She also served meals to the homeless and other people in need, in the historic community of Turkey Creek, Mississippi.Hannah states, “It was cool being in such a different place and learning about its rich history.”

Hannah explains how Turkey Creek was the original settlement of freed slaves who were relegated to the swampland, the most difficult terrain to cultivate crops.  Many of the original settlers’ descendents still live in the community.

She adds, “Our chaperones were great role models and gave us great insight into the area’s history as well as the many projects we were undertaking, which in some cases, were VISIONS projects they had also worked on.”

The volunteer teenagers and their chaperones where lodged in a Methodist church, whose members benefitted from the teen’s service projects.

Hannah remarks, “The people were so welcoming and appreciative.”

There actually was some holiday to their holiday as the group also explored the magical city of New Orleans and cruised through the eerie backwoods waters of the low country.

For the past 25 years, VISIONS has operated domestic and international service programs for high school and middle school students in the United States. Hannah had learned about VISIONS from a friend who had participated in one of its community service programs.

VISIONS Executive Director Katherine Dayton comments, “Service in the cross-cultural context allows teens the opportunity to make a difference and, just as important, know the people whose lives they are impacting in personal, mutually respectful ways.” She adds, “We give students tangible ways to be challenged through ambitious service work, thereby developing resilience and self-confidence, and realizing their potential in this world.”

During her school year, Hannah maintains a very busy schedule at RBR as a member of the swim team, key club, GSA, and the GlamourGals club, which performs cosmetic makeovers for senior citizens in assisted living. She is a member of the school’s girls’ cyber security team competing in cyber security contests on both a regional and state level. She excels academically and has gained entrance to the Math, Art and Spanish Honor Societies and recently earned a prestigious National Silver Scholastic Award for her creative writing work.  She is also a student council representative for her junior class.

As part of her IB community service project, Hannah and her fellow students are working for the charity and non-government organization (NGO) ChangeALife Uganda. She hopes to travel to Africa with the NGO next summer and work directly on projects that benefit the impoverished Ugandan people.  Hannah plans to study either anthropology or environmental science in college. True to her community service aspirations, she hopes to join the Peace Corp upon her college graduation.