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From the Colorado Rockies to Blue Earth, Minnesota

Hanna Haggarty here to help out as a VISTA volunteer for a year

By Fiona Edberg - Register Staff Writer | Jun 13, 2021

Blue Earth’s VISTA volunteer, Hanna Haggarty, snowboarding in the Colorado Rockies, above.

A Colorado native and snowboard enthusiast, Hanna Haggarty, Blue Earth’s AmeriCorps VISTA program recruit, has stuck the landing following her transition from Colorado’s mountains to the rolling farmlands of the Midwest. Since her arrival in January, Haggarty has already made a positive impact upon the community.

Haggarty hales from Steamboat Springs, a Colorado city of nearly 13,000 people.

When asked what she misses most about Steamboat Springs, Haggarty immediately answers, “My family.” When she’s home, Haggarty loves spending time with her family at the music venue bar which her mom owns.

Haggarty’s family also encouraged her to hit the slopes early in life.

“I started skiing as soon as I could walk,” admits Haggarty, and she has been an avid snowboarder since the age of eight or nine.

Haggarty loves her family and her hometown, but she has a passion for travel and exploring new communities as well.

While she was a student at the University of Colorado – Boulder, Haggarty studied business management entrepreneurship and strategy. Additionally, her Spanish minor led to a study abroad opportunity in Argentina.

Following her graduation in 2019, Haggarty looked for ways she could apply her love of travel and expertise in entrepreneurship toward helping communities worldwide.

Haggarty first pursued this goal through her involvement in the Peace Corps. After joining the program, she traveled to Costa Rica to serve in the Peace Corps economic development sector.

Sadly, Haggarty’s time in Costa Rica was cut short due to the spread of COVID-19. After her necessarily abrupt departure from the Peace Corps, she wondered, “What now?”

The answer came through the AmeriCorps VISTA program, which enables individuals to volunteer across the United States and apply their passions toward the betterment of American communities.

Haggarty was attracted to the VISTA program as it allows her to pursue projects similar to her work in the Peace Corps, only domestically. Additionally, it enables her to use her passion for economic development and the Spanish language to create meaningful change within American communities.

VISTA led Haggarty to Blue Earth, where she has been working for the past sixth months to advocate for the inclusion of diverse populations in the community.

Haggarty’s initial focus was to connect the Blue Earth community more successfully with local Spanish-speaking residents. Haggarty pursued this goal through a variety of efforts. For example, she worked to produce Spanish translations of local EDA documents and advertising materials. She also assisted local business owners as a Spanish-speaking liaison to the community.

However, Haggarty explains that now, “solely trying to assist Spanish speakers might be too narrow of a viewpoint.” As she spent more time in Blue Earth, she saw the community had many diverse populations who could benefit from heightened efforts toward inclusivity.

Haggarty is assessing the needs of diverse groups in the community through a survey. She hopes to address gaps identified by community members regarding inclusivity and accessibility throughout the area.

For example, Haggarty is interested in learning about existing language and financial barriers, and barriers to those with physical disabilities. She sees these as potential areas for improvement.

Through shifting her focus, Haggarty hopes to “create conversations [in the community] about what inclusion looks like.” She also hopes to spotlight ways to be welcoming to everybody.

Haggarty says she is enjoying her time in Blue Earth so far. Her relocation to a small town has been a bit of an adjustment, but she appreciates locals’ willingness to help her make connections within the community.

“People have been really great about helping me feel involved in the community, which I hope to bring to the people I work with as well,” says Haggarty.

Since January, Haggarty has indeed dedicated herself to building relationships with a variety of individuals within the community. However, her time in Blue Earth will end in another six months.

When asked about her plans for the future, Haggarty says that after returning home to visit her family she hopes to continue pursuing her passion for travel and nonprofit economic development.

Where might her travels lead her next?

“Maybe South America or Southeast Asia,” says Haggarty. While snowboarding opportunities may be slim where she goes, there is no doubt that Haggarty will find many other opportunities for new experiences and lifting up communities.