Lunch with a Side of Love Through coursework and connections, Hannah Archer '20 helped to create a school food service program to ensure that local children have enough to eat during the summer.
“Working with kids is the best part of my day, and I hope to get more wonderful opportunities like this.”
~ Hannah Archer ’20
Hometown: Cornelius, North Carolina
Minor: Education, Latin American and Caribbean Studies
What factors led you to choose W&L?
I discovered W&L through tennis recruitment and played here for my freshman and sophomore year. What made me chose W&L was the ability to go to a school with such wonderful academics and also to attend an institution where most students are very involved on campus. It was important to me that whatever college I chose would give me the chance to be involved in lots of extracurriculars and also (hopefully) become involved in the local community. Looking back on the decision I made three years ago, W&L was the perfect choice.
What made you decide on your major/minor?
I chose to be a biology major because I am a pre-med student and have always enjoyed learning about science. Once I completed biology research at W&L the summer following my freshman year, I knew that I wanted to major in biology.
I became a LACS minor because I took Spanish all through high school and loved learning about both the language and different Spanish cultures. I also love history and like how the LACS minor is a combination of both the Spanish language and history of Latin America.
I decided to become an education minor upon taking the introductory education class. At that point, I was already involved in the local elementary schools through Happy Kids, Healthy Kids. Education 200 has been one of my favorite classes at W&L because of the amount I learned about education policy and the general education system. This class made me realize that I want to make a difference either through a graduate program in education, nutrition and health policy. I will be applying to Masters’ of Public Policy programs to attend following my senior year.
Tell us about any interesting summer or Spring Term opportunities you have had while you’ve been at W&L.
In my freshman and sophomore year I did research here over the summer. I was also encouraged by Dr. Helen I’Anson to apply for a summer internship with my state senator at the end of my sophomore year. Through most of my freshman and sophomore year, I was very interested in the biological aspects of obesity and how this affected the body. My research with Dr. I’Anson pertained to the effects of snacking on childhood obesity.
How were you able to identify a need and address it by starting the local summer lunch program?
In my Education 200 class, we were tasked with writing a policy brief as one of our final projects. I wrote mine on the Summer Food Service Program (essentially the equivalent to free and reduced lunch, but over the summer). The program relies on government grants to provide free meals to kids over the summer in low-income school districts. Out of curiosity, I looked to see whether Rockbridge County schools had a program. Once I realized that there was not a SFSP, I met with the principal of Central Elementary school, who connected me with Daphne Stickley, who oversees the school nutrition services.
From there, Mrs. Stickley and I had various other meetings, including one with the Virginia Department of Education Regional Nutrition Specialist, in the hopes of getting the program approved. Mrs. Stickley worked incredibly hard to find a sponsor site and get the program in place. She has mentored me throughout the process and continues to teach me about the ups and downs of starting a program like this.
We currently serve free lunch to students at Maury River Middle School from noon to 1 p.m., Monday through Thursday. In addition, the YMCA camp receives free lunch at Waddell Elementary and various other school camps have also received free lunches. Since it is the first summer the program is in place, it will only go through the end of June. However, we hope to expand even more next summer, as we are already learning so much for next year.
What has been the most rewarding part about working with the local community?
The most rewarding part of my service is getting to work with the kids. I have always been passionate about the scientific aspects of the importance of nutrition and the impacts this has on your health. Once I got to W&L and was able to also learn about the importance of nutrition on a more personal level, I knew this was something I wanted to make a difference in. So, I started a chapter of Happy Kids, Healthy Kids, a national nonprofit organization that addresses childhood obesity in low-income areas through after-school programs at local elementary schools. We primarily work at Central and Waddell Elementary, partnering with the YMCA after-school program each week to teach the kids about nutrition, physical fitness and an overall healthy lifestyle.
How has this work impacted your career goals?
This work has only further interested me in health, nutrition and education policy. I hope to find a career in which I can combine all three interests, and hope to pursue an MD/MPP. This is the exact kind of work that I love to do. Working with kids is the best part of my day, and I hope to get more wonderful opportunities like this.
Has anyone on campus served as a mentor to you?
Two professors have served as mentors for me on campus. First, my research professor and academic advisor, Dr. I’Anson, with whom I have done research since my freshman year. In addition, Professor Robert Gildner, with whom I had a history class, has been a wonderful mentor. I feel very fortunate to attend a university with such caring and dedicated professors.
What would you say to a prospective W&L student who is deciding whether or not to apply or attend here?
One of the best parts of W&L is the small school size. Because of this, you get individualized attention from professors and experiences you would never have at bigger schools (i.e. having the ability to start a club, being on a sports team and also having the ability to participate in other extracurriculars).
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More About Hannah
What is your personal motto?
Work hard and be kind.
What’s the best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
The Palms, and I get the salmon salad.
Favorite W&L event?
Ornithology with Dr. Cabe
Favorite W&L memory?
I don’t have one memory in particular but I really cherish all of the memories I have made here with lifelong friends
What are your post-grad plans?
Immediately following graduation I want to get my Master of Public Health degree, then apply to medical school.