Skip to main content

Hannah Gates ’22

How are you involved with the Jandon Center?

For the past two years I have been the Kensington Fellow, coordinating a mentorship program that matches dedicated Smithies one-to-one with elementary students in Springfield, Massachusetts, who are recently resettled refugees or have experienced trauma due to forced relocation. A highlight of my Smith experience has been visiting Kensington Elementary School and our mentees every week, watching their huge smiles when the mentors walk into the classroom and supporting their adjustment to a new life in Springfield. More recently, I have been working as Jandon Center’s Remote Tutoring Fellow, assisting our volunteers and our partner school Rebecca Johnson Elementary in Springfield as we support the students and their teachers during this time of Zoom school.

What have you noticed about your community? What is working/not working?

This year of remote learning has brought many challenges to the forefront. The American school system has always struggled to truly be the great “equalizer” that its founders envisioned, and learning during our current pandemic has only emphasized the advantages that privileged students experience. Rebecca Johnson School is the largest elementary school in Springfield with over 700 students, and it serves 94 percent of students of color and 89 percent of low-income families. The systemic inequalities in Springfield and beyond have made these students’ and their families’ educational journey challenging, but they are so much more than these numbers. These young learners come to class full of joy and a deep desire to learn, and despite at times limited access to the technology that makes remote learning easier for their more affluent peers, these students do extraordinary things with what they have, and each new skill is a triumph. I have loved watching each child’s progress and seeing their huge smiles when they, too, realize how far they are coming. I also love hearing stories from my fellow tutors about inspiring curiosity and building relationships beyond their academic goals and giving them space to have fun and just be kids.

Who/what inspires you? Or who/what do you think we should know more about?

Last semester I was fortunate to have Loretta Ross visit my study of women and gender class, and I was incredibly moved by her dedication to enacting change through relationship building. The thing that stuck with me was hearing her say, “When we give up, that is when they win.” The push for equity has countless rewards and moments of joy, but we also know it can have overwhelming heartbreak at times. Remembering Ross’s words and her entire body of work reminds me of how crucial this work is and how we can find support and refreshed energy through finding our people and working together.

What’s one thing you wish people knew about you? Or what’s a fun fact about yourself?

I am in love with the natural world! Every flower blooming in spring, a campus squirrel waddling away with a huge bagel, the little spider freeloading in my dorm room, the veggies I grow with my mom back home, every crazy form of prehistoric life I learn about (Quetzalcoatlus is my favorite!), and humans, too. We are all connected in such intricate ways, and Mother Nature is here for the long haul no matter what happens. I also taught myself to unicycle over quarantine, so that has been really fun!

“We are all connected in such intricate ways, and Mother Nature is here for the long haul no matter what happens.”

About Hannah

Pierre, South Dakota

Education Major