Nicole Hanna: November Volunteer of the Month
Nicole has been with NRS since April 2019. She was among the first to return to the lines when a remote option was instated in 2020. We sat down for a quick Q&A:
NRS: What made you decide to volunteer with NRS?
Nicole: My friend and I went to the Volunteer Expo at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. We were looking for some kind of way to give back. I was interested in volunteering but I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. When I spoke with someone from NRS, I was just really drawn in. I had no idea that homeless and runaway youth was such a prevalent issue, I was really struck by the impact that I could potentially be making. I decided to go with it!
I discovered that I live really close to the office and it was a place that I could even just walk to and learned the mission, which I loved.
NRS: What keeps you coming back to volunteer week after week?
Nicole: When we were in person, it was the comradery! The supervisors always checking in, so helpful with resources. In the crisis center there was a great sense of community. We all looked after each other.
Since we’ve been remote that looks a little different. I love how we have the TEAMS group chat! It’s a virtual way to still have that sense of community. Supervisors still doing a wonderful job of checking in especially with emotionally tolling chats, I can’t say enough how much I appreciate them.
NRS: Tell us something you’ve learned from your experiences volunteering with us?
Nicole: I think I’ve learned so much about the importance of social/emotional wellbeing/learning in kids and teens. As a teacher, I’ve tried to focus so much on academics in the past. But after NRS and working with kids focusing on their social and emotional parts of their lives, I’ve actually adopted some techniques in my own classroom to help my students with this as well. I think we need to focus on mental health just as much as the academic side of learning at school.
I was able to use some of the strategies from the NRS Crisis Intervention Training in my own job. We’re not always trained how to deal with certain types of situations, it’s nice to bring those for my own classroom. I can take what I know about working with kids on the lines as well, it goes both ways.
NRS: Give us a Fun Fact about yourself that you don’t think someone would be able to guess just by meeting you.
Nicole: I have been to 21 countries AND COUNTING! Right now my passport is blank because I got it renewed before COVID and I can’t wait to start traveling again. I think I love South East Asia the most out of any region I’ve been to. I did a study abroad there during my time in grad school at Michigan State University and since has help a special place in my heart.
NRS: What would you say to someone who was thinking of volunteering with NRS?
Nicole: I would encourage them to do it. If they’re interested in learning more about the youth in our country that need our support, this is such a great way to give back. It’s a great way to show and exercise empathy for other people. A way to really connect to people who really need help. If someone is willing to reach out for help, it’s really important for someone to be there and give them that ear. It makes me be a better human too.
The people you work with are really nice too!
Also, you learn the importance of being non-judgmental. We’re there to help people and to be there and to listen. Imagine if everyone had the opportunity to talk to someone in that way! You could change so much. Being that listening ear for somebody goes so far.