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Making Your Mark

Katherine Hayden (sophomore)

Hi, I’m Katherine Hayden, a sophomore Advertising major here at Penn State. While I’m still navigating my way to find out exactly what it is I want to do after college, I’m aiming to gain knowledge and skills in the commercial side of Advertising and Communications so I can later work for a non-profit organization within the US or around the world free of charge. Growing up in a Christian elementary school and small, close-knit community, I was exposed to community service rather early on. However, it wasn’t until the start of my high school years that I chose to get involved on my own, not for any school requirement. One of a few experiences that first opened my eyes to the reality of hardships and whom they affect was when I volunteered at a local holiday party through Adelante Familia. Adelante Familia is a non-profit organization fighting to eliminate intimate partner violence within the Latino community in Baltimore, MD. Having the opportunity to make those families’ holidays even a little bit better meant so much to me. Interacting with victims of intimate partner violence, seeing how brave they still are, hearing their children’s laughter and being able to make them smile despite their home life changed my viewpoint forever. This opportunity both sparked and fueled my drive to always dedicate part of my time to helping anyone who may need it. Since then, I’ve long been debating joining the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps once I graduate college. Those big decisions are still up in the air, in the mean time, I’m focusing on the impact I can make at Penn State.

Although I’m a member of a few different beneficial organizations that support different causes, Empower Orphans (EO) has a permanent place in my heart. By luck, I met our Director of Public Relations, Colleen McBride, in an English class we had together last year. As if her friendship wasn’t enough of a gift, she then introduced me to Empower Orphans and all the inspiring people who make up the organization. Not so long after my first general body meeting, I was kindly invited to become both Photography/Video Chair and Internal Communications Chair. It seemed like a lot to take on at once but it was and has proven to be an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Nearly every event or meeting I’ve shared with the people in EO and the local children we’ve helped has been a privilege; however, one of my favorites was our first general meeting of Fall 2016. Specifically, it was Neha Gupta’s, founder of EO, short speech that introduced the roots of EO—powerful words that will stay with me for a long time. Having joined the club halfway through the semester prior, I hadn’t had the chance to hear her story and viewpoint directly from her. Her raw emotion and passion dripping from every word, I got goose bumps. She created a ripple in that very room just as she has done since she was 9-years-old (and probably even before that). In those few minutes, we were all humbled by her words.

There have been extended periods of time in my life where I haven’t participated in community service. Every time that occurred, something felt missing. In the beginning, I couldn’t figure out why. Once I realized, it was simple. Helping others has made my life rich. My experiences and the amazing people I’ve met opened my eyes to the privileges so many of us, including myself, often take for granted. As Kayla Paulosky mentioned a few weeks ago, there is an astounding number of children in the Foster Care system and/or living in poverty. Any action you take, any word(s) you say to advocate for anyone who needs it even in the slightest, creates an imprint on his or her life deeper than you may ever know. The beautiful thing about community service, whether it’s for the town you reside in or the world we all live in, is that giving is receiving. With that, I encourage you to make your mark. Make your mark on the ground you walk on, the people you meet and the hearts that touch yours. My goal is to leave this world better than I found it and I have faith that everyone can and will do the same in one way or another.

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