Two Harbors student finds passion in volunteering
In the summer of 2015, Two Harbors senior Alexis Hanson was traveling to Detroit as part of her church youth group's volunteer effort to help those less fortunate in the Motor City. She had heard all the reports of crime and poverty that have made headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past few years and she was apprehensive about making her way into these communities, but what she found was a little different.
"I learned that Detroit is not a bad place and the people were really really nice," she said. "Once I was there and experienced it, I realized that the people are so nice but their city needs a lot of work. They'd been told for years that people were coming to help them and then no one would show up, so when we showed up they were so happy."
Hanson had gone to Detroit with the local 4-H Club and the group worked clean up the streets and yards, volunteered at local thrift stores and even organized a small food shelf for the community. What's more, a local woman saw all the young people wearing orange shirts and she came over to see what was going on. After finding the kids working to help improve the neighborhood, the woman rolled her sleeves up and started helping the group weed and pick up trash.
"She was so surprised and had never seen anything like that before," Alexis said. "She came out and was telling us her story about how she ended up there and she felt so happy that people had come to help that she thought she needed to come help us... We felt like we really bonded with her because she was so happy that someone had come to help. I thought it was really cool to make such a connection with someone that was having a tough time there."
Volunteering and 4-H have become a passion for Alexis, with her logging more than 1,400 hours of volunteer work during her four years of high school. Alexis has volunteered for 4-H, the Lake County Fair, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Julebyen in Knife River, Pheasants Forever, the Two Harbors Area Food Shelf and others. She also volunteered at the annual Thanksgiving Dinner at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center and with Just Kids Dental in Two Harbors.
"(Alexis) is very caring and always willing to help somebody out," Vi Hanson, Alexis' mother said. "Whether they're hurt or they're having a good time, she's always there to help somebody."
When she was in ninth grade and learned about the old requirement that students need 40 hours of volunteer hours at Two Harbors to graduate, Alexis thought it was no big deal. Forty hours was less time than she spent in a single summer so it was a simple matter of "just filling out the paper, no problem."
Last year, when Lake Superior School District changed the volunteer requirement to an opportunity to earn a varsity letter, some students were relieved they no longer had to meet the 40 hours. Alexis, however, was saddened that there might be less help going out to organizations in the community, like the 4-H Club she loves so much.
"When I see someone that doesn't care about it or say that it won't help anything I just wonder what if they were someone who needed help. There are some things that I help with that wouldn't be helpful without me or other volunteers," Alexis said. "4-H wouldn't be possible without the volunteers that make it happen. The thing that is most important to me, wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for volunteers."
Alexis first started working with the local 4-H chapter as a kindergartner and the organization didn't just instill a love for volunteering, it also kindled a love for working with her hands and making things. Each year, she makes several projects for the Lake County Fair, mostly wood furniture or projects, and has taken classes in small engines and construction at Two Harbors. She helped build the tiny house at Two Harbors and the combined project to build a new crow's nest at the Silver Bay football field.
"I really got involved in the industrial part of things when I was younger. My dad is a diesel mechanic so I was always in the garage messing around with things with him," Alexis said. "When I came to school in seventh and eighth grade and industrial arts was a required class, I really liked it."
Each year, Alexis sends at least one project to the Minnesota State Fair and this year she's working to build her own king size bed, complete with reading lamps.
"Most people would say, 'Holy moly you are making a king size bed by yourself' but the frame only took about three days," she said.
Hanson also swims for Two Harbors, is a member of the trapshooting team and an honor student at Two Harbors. In addition, she holds down two jobs, working at Larsmont Cottages as well as working at Kamloops Restaurant at Superior Shores Resort.
In her free time, of which she has precious little, Alexis spends time helping on her family's 200 acre hobby farm, skiing in the winter and heading up to the family cabin in the summer. She also spends time building projects for her family's house or new projects for 4-H, but she never forgets the importance of volunteering.
"I would not have met as many people or had as many amazing experiences if it hadn't been for volunteering," she said. "It has shown me that if I want something to be possible for others, I feel like I should step up and make it happen."