No matter what she’s doing, 18-year-old Deer Park Home Link senior Ashley Hanson can’t help but connect with the people she’s around. For Hanson, the people make the memories – whether through volunteering, traveling or agriculture-related duties – even more special.
Hanson started volunteering as a fourth-grader when she began a project that had local quilters create pink ribbon-themed quilts for patients going through chemotherapy.
The next year, after she became home-schooled, Hanson began volunteering in classrooms at Riverside Elementary School, where her brothers were students. She volunteered there once a week until her senior year, when other responsibilities kept her from the classroom.
“That’s where I met some of my hero teachers,” she said. “That’s definitely what sparked my interest and my desire to go into education.”
International trips proved to be just as rewarding for Hanson.
When she was 12 years old, she and her dad spent a week in Tijuana, Mexico, building a house. She made such a big impact on the team she worked with, she was asked back for a three-week stint.
During the summer before her sophomore year, Hanson worked at an orphanage in Chihuahua, Mexico, for a week. She said she still has pictures of the children she worked with on her prayer wall and prays for them every day.
And in 2011, Hanson joined a group of students as a People to People Student Ambassador to Europe, traveling to Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and France. But those countries paled in comparison to the people she traveled with.
“No matter where I go or how awesome the sites that I’m seeing are, the people that I’m with are much more inspiring and much more memorable,” Hanson said.
Growing up on her family’s farm made Hanson passionate about agriculture and inspired her to become an Inland Northwest agriculture ambassador, a Junior Livestock Show ambassador and a 4H ambassador.
Because she has allergies that sometimes prevent her from helping with harvest and interacting with the animals, Hanson plans to combine her love of agriculture and meeting new people into an off-the-farm career as an agriculture teacher or speaker.
She plans to major in agriculture communication and agriculture education at Oklahoma State University in the fall after graduating with a Deer Park Home Link diploma and an AA from Spokane Community College.
With so much on her plate, between high school, Running Start, volunteering and agriculture, Hanson sometimes has trouble juggling it all.
But when her volunteer and agriculture work seems futile, she simply thinks of something her mother said: Love your own.
“That’s going to be the only change in this world that I can truly spark, but I can do it every day and I can give it everything that I’ve got,” she said. “If, at the end of the day, I can say that I love my own, then it was a good day.”
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