Hannah Fraser, a third year student at Western Carolina University, is a student leader who is active in addressing issues of and opportunities for student civic engagement. For the past three years she has taken action to register, educate, and engage students as involved members of our democracy. She currently serves as the Vice Chair for the Student Democracy Coalition and has assisted with advocacy work to petition for online voter registration in the state of North Carolina, to organize Democracy Day where students and candidates on the ballot can meet and discuss issues, and prepare student citizens for a civically engaged life. Hannah has such a thoughtfulness and intentionality with her perspective when it comes to this work that it is refreshing to those who work closely with her. She is the type of leader with her peers who does not hesitate to step forward when the situation calls for it, but also will step aside without an ego or question when she needs to do so. As a leader, this decision is a delicate one to balance, and yet she seems to have a natural understanding that her peers have yet to develop.
The Western Carolina University application for admission provided the option of joining a focused learning community. I selected "The Ripple Effect", which is devoted to community engagement and leadership. During high school, I had successfully taken on leadership roles, and I was therefore excited to build upon these acquired social skills. On our first day, the professor who oversaw The Ripple Effect community asked us, "What do you care enough about to do something about?" That was the point when I realized that I had the power as an individual to make meaningful change. Energized, I spearheaded the formation of a chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness on WCU's campus. Our first effort was a public event during which members of the campus community were invited to sign a large poster in support of survivors of suicide. This experience was extremely rewarding, because many people with whom we interacted that day told us how important it was to them personally that we were bringing public awareness to the topic. During my second year at WCU, I became an Ambassador to the Andrew Goodman Foundation and engaged the campus community through an active student voter registration program. This effort was important for me because I strongly believe that all of us should take advantage of the rights that we have to choose who represents us, and I very much enjoyed helping students feel empowered by voting. I am committed and excited to continue my work with positive community engagement.