Since her first year of high school, when she started a local Relay for Life chapter at her high school, Hannah Gibbs has taken a collaborative, capacity-building approach to social change. Now a sophomore at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, Hannah is a leader in efforts to involve Centre students in off-campus projects that address unmet community needs. While Hannah's work in the local community, which has included projects such as a campus-wide donation drive to support a newly-opened community food bank and a campaign to raise awareness of the need for stronger human trafficking policies, is impressive, she does not stop at organizing events and projects, but also strives to help college students across Kentucky develop the leadership skills necessary to create long-term social change. As the founder of Stand: The Student Service Initiative, a service organization with four active chapters on campuses across the state and three additional chapters in formation, Hannah recognizes that long-term social change that can come only when people work together. It is her leadership, commitment to collaboration, and deep awareness of the need for long-term solutions to social inequality that make her an exceptionally qualified candidate for the Newman Civic Fellowship.
The first time I realized the depth and breadth of social inequalities based on factors from race to socioeconomic status, was through my childhood spent in Eastern Kentucky, which remains an area stricken by poverty and social injustice. As I have gotten more involved through campus and community activities, I have addressed those issues that lead to systemic inequality by creating collaborative, inclusive opportunities for students to get engaged in social issues. Leading Stand, a statewide service organization, I work to raise money each year to help atypically-developing children access education, have organized two campus-wide events to help clean a destroyed African-American cemetery, have hosted a hygiene product drive to assist our local food pantry, and am now working to organize a week of events centered around changing state legislation regarding human trafficking. In addition, I participate, through the Bonner program, in regular conversations with other students regarding the systemic causes of social injustices, and then in turn, how to address them in our own communities. Through these outlets, I am able to work both locally and statewide to address immediate needs in communities as well as create opportunities for student leadership to address the root causes of social inequalities.