Summer Volunteer Hannah Tall
“Being a summer volunteer with PeerForward isn’t something you do once and forget about it. It’s a movement that you’re now part of, that you’ve made your mark on and you walk away feeling valuable and loved,” says regular summer workshop volunteer Hannah Tall. Tall, a Pace University graduate and regional recruitment manager for City Year, shared her thoughts on serving as a PeerForward summer workshop volunteer with Natasha Bailey, PeerForward’s volunteer engagement manager.
How did you get involved with PeerForward?
PeerForward came to my high school in New York City when I was a junior, so I saw them working with our senior class and it got us pretty stoked to get involved the following year. During senior year, I was chosen as a Peer Leader, but at the last minute I couldn’t attend the workshop. I’m kind of grateful that I didn’t, because it opened up the opportunity for someone else in my class and seeing the mix of students they selected for the workshop, I knew it wasn’t about sending the high achievers, but about sending students who the school believed exhibited leadership, not just scholastic promise. I saw my peers really step in to their leadership roles after their student driven summer workshop. Fast forward to my freshman year in college, and I applied to be an Alumni Leader during summer workshops, which were life altering. And since then, I’ve been a summer volunteer as a Writing Coach during workshops.
How would you describe PeerForward workshops to a friend?
The workshops helped us all break down walls and created safe spaces where we could be ourselves. I’ve seen people who may have not worked with young people consistently before, leave feeling a new connection to youth development and college-access work. I always feel a deeper commitment to the work I already do with young people. Volunteering is my way of paying it forward to the folks who mentored me, who saw something in me and knew I was capable of greatness, even when I doubted my potential.
Can you tell me about one or two students who made a special impression on you?
I had a student during my first workshop who was super shy and didn’t think that writing her personal statement mattered because she didn’t feel like her voice was important. I took her out in to the hallway to get some air away from the rest of the writing group, and as she was talking about not wanting to share her story, I thought of a Maya Angelou quote, “You can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud.” I shared that with her, to reinforce the fact that her story did indeed matter; she had no idea who she would touch by sharing her perspective and her words. At the banquet we threw on the last night of the workshop, a student from each group acknowledges the staff they worked with over the weekend. She acknowledged me and reminded me of the words I shared with her and how that helped her through the writing process. To this day, I’m still moved by her gesture and bravery to get up and speak to a room of 100+ people to show me gratitude.
How does your volunteering impact your career?
Volunteering with PeerForward is a staple of my summer. It’s how I say thank-you to a student driven organization that helped me understand and step in to my power as a young adult. I work in youth development and education now, and the work aligns with my personal mission of connecting young people with opportunities and resources that’ll help them be of service to their communities. The things I’ve learned about my leadership and facilitation styles have impacted how I’ve developed and run programming as well as how I’ve collaborated in both work and personal projects.