She goes the extra-curricular mile

Owing her grand presence in after-school activities to Google Calendar and Keep, senior Hannah Shin has seemingly achieved 25 hours in a day.

Sam Podnar

What extracurricular activities are you involved in?

My favorite and most formative commitments include Pennsylvania DECA, Rotary International, the NASD School Board, TigerTHON, Science NHS, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, and the Elderly Embrace Care Network, a 501(c)3 media nonprofit I founded and continue to direct to promote a culture of deep respect for our elderly. I also enjoy playing the flute in our wind ensemble as well as in honors bands across the state and co-leading our Fencing Team. Another of my fondest experiences has been serving seniors and people with disabilities through a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that provides in-home services. All of these experiences have significantly shaped me, and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to create impact through and be impacted by them!

How do you manage all of your activities?

I genuinely cherish the experiences I continue to involve myself in, so I honestly view the opportunity to manage my activities as a blessing. Regarding logistics, I allocate segments of my time via Google Calendar completely to each activity, one at a time, so that I can be fully present and in the moment for all of the work that I do. At the end of each day, I analyze how I have spent my time and reflect upon what I can or should do differently. I also use Google Keep for specific meetings or tasks and set alarms to mark all virtual meetings. I strongly believe that leaders have the responsibility to contribute their all, remaining cognizant of the privilege and trust they have, so outside of just organizing or leading meetings and completing many tasks, I also allocate time slots for brainstorming future directions and initiatives for my organizations. Before I commit to any activity, I first make sure that I have the time and energy to fully devote myself to it, so managing my activities has never seemed like a burden.

Are you familiar with the time turner in Harry Potter? Have you managed to acquire this somehow in order to keep up with your activities?

I remember being fascinated upon reading about the time turner in Harry Potter! I would love to have acquired it, but alas, I haven’t. Google Calendar and Keep are like “time maximizers”, though, and I’d truly recommend them.

How do you choose what to prioritize?

I am deeply appreciative of the plethora of opportunities offered here at NA, and with each new experience, I have gotten to know myself a bit better. As time isn’t infinite, I naturally came to prioritize my commitments by reflecting upon impact—how much each activity impacts me and how much I can impact it. I love giving back to and impacting my communities, and I’m committed to leaving a legacy through the work that I do for them. (Working on doing as much as I can for each community before I graduate has been a major focus of mine, and I’d love to come back after high school!) It’s very important to be honest with yourself and with others and to fully devote yourself to your priorities. Upon setting my priorities, including all of the experiences I mentioned in the first question, I have been delving deeper and deeper into each activity, having the time of my life and learning more than I ever imagined before getting involved. 

Where do you feel like you’ve been able to make the biggest impact?

I feel that I have made the biggest impact through the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh. Starting off as the first youth moderator for a panel discussion on advancing toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals amidst COVID-19, I have been invited to moderate and/or give speeches at over a dozen public events and to serve on several committees, and I have represented the Council through various forms of media outreach, including a video interview in downtown Pittsburgh and written testimonials. Staff members at the Council have also invited me to speak at public events hosted by other organizations like the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership and the Pitt Sustainable Business Center. I will be speaking at several upcoming events too, and I look forward to them very much. Furthermore, I served as the Council’s Innovation and Research Fellow earlier this year, shaping applications for a cohort of youth programming applicants, engaging in professional development sessions, and presenting regular updates at All-Staff meetings, and most recently, I was selected to Co-Chair the Youth Board, through which I will continue to attend Adult Board meetings, facilitate Youth Board meetings, providing a youth perspective and serving as a liaison between the Adult and Youth Boards. The Council is shifting from its stance throughout its 90-year history to more directly involve and engage youth, and I believe that my work in it over the past four years has impacted both the Council and myself.

How did you get started in leadership?

My love for service naturally sparked my first true experience in leadership. In middle school, I noticed that there were rather few service project opportunities until high school, and I aimed to create opportunities for community-building and community service that middle schoolers could become engaged in right away. Thus, I started and led an Interact Club. Our sponsors were incredibly supportive, and with their guidance, I directed outreach to gather dozens of members, organized regular meetings, and led service projects, including a Treats for Troops drive that gathered Halloween candy for veterans and a book drive that accumulated hundreds of books that we eagerly donated. Leading Interact Club nurtured my love of both service and leadership, and Interact has continued to be one of the most influential communities of my life to date. I have loved every step of the journey, continuing to become more involved with Interact with the guidance of our awesome sponsors up at the high schools too, starting Interact at NAI and now leading it at NASH. All the while, I have continued to love serving our community and encouraging fellow students to fall in love with service like I have. I also cherish giving back to Interact through serving on the Rotary International Interact Advisory Council as one of eight Interactors worldwide, representing 350,000+ Interactors in advising the Board of Directors on the future of Interact programming, and giving speeches/presentations at several conferences. My middle school start to leadership has influenced me outside of Interact as well; one of my main commitments is leading Pennsylvania DECA as the State President, and I certainly feel that my experience in middle school paved the way for the opportunities I am engaged in today, from organizing all of our initiatives to leading and/or being invited to speak at numerous meetings and heading our state officer team of 16. Beyond this, the beautiful memories I’ve made through Interact make my heart so happy.

What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing so many different activities?

Without a doubt in my mind, I’d say that the biggest advantage of deeply pursuing an assortment of activities is getting the life-changing opportunity to interact with a strikingly wide range of people whose experiences significantly differ from my own. I love giving speeches to culturally diverse audiences and having conversations with youth, seniors, and everyone in between. Beyond this majorly influential aspect, advantages such as getting to know yourself better, making memories you will certainly look back on fondly, and strengthening skills or developing/discovering new ones are immensely impactful. On the flip side, there are the disadvantages of fatigue and decreased alone time. I am committed to giving my all to each organization I am a part of, and this has led to some rather hectic days with commitments scheduled consecutively. They don’t overlap, but I find myself sometimes with less than half an hour in between each commitment. For instance, one day last year, I had six meetings/events, some of which were in-person and some of which were virtual, to attend immediately after an AP exam; I was quite exhausted that night. Still, the advantages far outweigh any possible fatigue that may stem from being busy, and I do not at all regret devoting myself to my organizations.

How do you deal with burnout and low motivation?

Honestly, it does get hard at times, but I like to recharge through daily walks around my neighborhood, reflecting upon my experiences, values, and upcoming plans. I am energized as I remember how truly grateful I am to have the opportunity to contribute to causes I genuinely care about and interact with incredible people.

How do you spend your time outside of school and extracurriculars?

I love spending time with my family and friends, reading poems and books, and playing the flute, piccolo, ukulele, and kalimba (I started the latter two rather recently). As faith is a central element of my identity, I cherish doing devotionals and going to church.

What would people be most surprised to learn about you?

It may be surprising to learn that I was born near Los Angeles and came here when I was five. My family travelled all the way to Pittsburgh through a cross-country road trip that remains one of my sweetest memories from my early childhood years.

What’s your favorite place to be at NASH? Least favorite?

My favorite places to be at NASH are definitely the classrooms, the heart of our school! I love admiring the decorations in classrooms. They are so full of personality as they are adorned with posters, models, or other forms of media that reflect the classes taught in those rooms. I also love the Library (so many beautiful books and such homey vibes!) and really like being in the auditorium, especially when I am in the audience watching incredible student musicals or when I was up on stage performing at band concerts before the pandemic. For my least favorite place, I’m not sure if this counts, but I’d have to say the parking lot, specifically after school ends, when it gets rather packed.

What’s your comfort movie?

I love The Lorax—it brings back fond memories from elementary school, and the central theme of being vocal about a cause that is far larger than yourself is quite admirable.

Any book recommendations?

Yes for sure! I would 100% recommend David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, to name a few. Please feel free to reach out to me if you ever want some more book recommendations or if there are books you’d like to suggest.