WGF: How did you get involved with the Women and Girls Foundation?
HS: When I was 14, I joined the Women and Girls Foundation’s GirlGov program after spotting a flyer posted in my high school. I attended GirlGov in the summers of 2012 and in 2014. The program changed my life in that it showed me that there were opportunities out there in leadership for me that I never could have dreamed of on my own. I had never known what I was capable of until GirlGov gave me the knowledge and means to know my worth.
WGF: Tell us about your educational/social activism/personal background.
HS: My story starts on a small farm south of Pittsburgh where I grew up surrounded by hard workers and strugglers. My dad is a quadriplegic and requires a lot of care, and the rest of my family works in hard labor. I am passionate because what I believe in truly affects me, and I want to be an advocate for the people who gave me my start. I began my activism as an 8th grader, where I walked each day after school to Representative Brandon Neuman’s campaign office. I got my start making phone calls and stuffing envelopes, knowing all along that Representative Neuman wanted to help people like me. I then moved on to become student council president of my high school, where I was a representative of my fellow students to the school board of Canon-McMillan High School. I continued to work for Representative Neuman’s campaigns. My senior year, I interned for now-Governor Tom Wolf’s campaign. When I finally turned 18, I was able to become a patient escort for Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Pennsylvania where I provided a friendly smile and a comforting step to the many patients who are forced to walk through shouting protestors as they seek out care at Planned Parenthood. All the while staying involved in volunteering with WGF’s many events and programs. Today, I am a rising sophomore at American University where I study in the school of Public Affairs. I work in the University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion where I help to run the University’s LGBTQ+ peer educating program. I also work to enhance the experience of LGBTQ+, multicultural, first generation, and women’s experiences on campus. I hope to continue to be a changemaker in our society in many ways as I move forward.
WGF: What are you working on for WGF?
HS: This summer at WGF, I started out preparing for this year’s GirlGov trip to Harrisburg. I read bills and reached out to members of the legislature to talk with our Girls. Currently I am working on outreach to past GirlGov members. The end goal is to develop a network for the girls and to see where the program has led the hundreds of girls that have gone through the program.
WGF: What is your favorite part of the job?
HS: My favorite part of the job is most definitely knowing in my heart that I’m doing something meaningful. Knowing that I’m helping to contribute to the organization and programs that helped me to get my start and to become who I am is incredibly rewarding. AND the people. The people at WGF are smart, compassionate and just refreshing to be around. I have made lifelong connections and friendships.
WGF: What is the most rewarding thing you have worked on in your career so far?
HS: It is difficult to pinpoint what I have found most rewarding. I imagine that the most rewarding aspects of my career so far have been working on campus to provide a positive and accepting environment for various students who face inequalities and discrimination. Not only has it been beneficial to my soul, but the experiences I have learned about making changes within an institution will aide me to continue to be a changemaker in our country.
WGF: If you could resolve one world issue, what would it be?
HS: If I could resolve one world issue, it would be based entirely on education. Access to quality education for ALL people regardless of socioeconomic status, tax bracket, or immigration status. I believe that access to quality education would in turn solve the entirety of our problems. I believe that if people had the power that education grants, there would be less hate and fear in the world. That people could have the capacity to understand and solve the issues that we face. Education is something that can never be taken away once granted.
WGF: Do you have any advice for young people who want to make change but don’t know where to start?
HS: No matter how discouraged you may find yourself on a Monday morning after working so hard to find that you’ve only moved an inch, never ever give up. Never stop preaching love and equality and solutions and change. Never give in no matter how much it feels like the world is working against you. In the eyes of change, an inch is a mile and a step is a cliff. Your contribution, no matter how small, makes a difference. Change doesn’t always come easily or quickly. Change doesn’t come with silence or quiet conversations. Change comes through the voices of people who never give up, who never slow down and who never quiet down by the request of power. Be unstoppable.
WGF: What is your favorite food?
HS: My favorite food is my mom’s hand rolled stuffed grape leaves. I can’t say more, that recipe is a family heirloom!