For Hannah Katz ’21, college graduation felt like a moment to reflect and “pay forward.”
“I decided that after spending a lot of time on my own education and my own experiences … I should spend some time doing service and giving back to communities,” she said. And now, Katz is doing just that by serving as a summer enrichment coordinator for the DREAM Program in Winooski, Vt.
Major: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Averill Park, N.Y.
High School: Averill Park High School
The program’s mission, she said, is to “close the opportunity gap” by working with students in low-income communities. Part of her role is managing the balance between work and play in the program; in Katz’s words, to ensure that the students become more “competent readers and problem solvers” while still “[having] a fun summer.”
So far, the program’s training has emphasized “working with [the kids] to understand identity, fun, and what makes each of us unique,” Katz said. Moving forward, she hopes to revitalize a community garden to teach the children about food and the environment, and organize field trips to “appreciate local places” and “find excitement and passion in their own communities.”
Influential in Katz’s decision to look into a program like DREAM was the time she spent in Hamilton’s Adirondack Program. “There was a super strong emphasis on community up there,” she said, “and so I’ve been looking for community aid positions — environmental and community work.”
Another influence on Katz was Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Priya Chandrasekaran. “She focuses a lot on structural inequalities and systemic issues,” Katz explained, “which is a lot of what the DREAM Program focuses on.” Chandrasekaran, she said, also does a good job of balancing realism and optimism, discussing both “everything that’s wrong with the world” and “how you can go about trying to fix it.”
Katz described herself as someone who was always interested in the outdoors, a trait that led her toward environmental studies when she started at Hamilton. But her understanding of the subject and its interdisciplinary nature deepened in college, where she was able to incorporate into her studies of the environment other interests in psychology and communication. “It’s just as much about people and connecting as it is about the environment,” Katz said.
Following her summer position in Vermont, Katz is planning to move to Washington state, where she will consider seeking out another AmeriCorps position, either in community or environment. But a rigid plan is not what Katz is looking for in these next few years. “I want to have a lot of different experiences and connect with a lot of different people and learn from different cultures and different experiences and different perspectives,” she said.
Reflecting on her time at Hamilton, Katz said that it’s the little things that she will miss the most: time in the Glen, the Commons lunch rush, even just being in the kitchen with friends. And aside from this, Katz mentioned the Outing Club, saying that “having that sort of support [for outdoor activities] is really special.”