Student Testimony | Hannah Freeland
With a vision of “Changing Lives to Change the World”, here at TeenPact we would be remiss to not share stories of such life change. Below is the first of a series of student testimonies that will be posted throughout our entire year. This one comes from Tennessee student Hannah Freeland. We hope that her honest words are inspiring to you as they were to us.
I walked in – no, my mom dragged me in – to my first TeenPact 4-day class back in 2014. I’ll just go ahead and say that I did NOT want to be there. In my mind, TeenPact was for extroverted over-achievers who had nothing better to do and actually enjoyed learning about the government, of all things. TeenPact was boring, a waste of time, and it wouldn’t help me through life.
I have never been more wrong.
You see, I had this thing called a comfort zone. My comfort zone wasn’t very big. It was this little bubble that surrounded me, my life, and my activities. Anything outside a conversation with my friends scared me to death. I wouldn’t even go into Sunday School unless my mom was right there. Then I attended TeenPact.
“My comfort zone was this little bubble that surrounded me, my life, and my activities…Then I attended TeenPact.”
My first TeenPact class was the first class for Tennessee as well. TeenPact Tennessee 2014 consisted of 21 students – and everyone else actually wanted to be there. They had done the homework. They participated in class. They ran in class elections. They had fun. I didn’t. I told myself, “I will not enjoy this class. I will not let mom say ‘I told you so’.” (You have no idea how many “I told you so’s” I’ve heard since then.) However, when I realized how these other students could have fun and learn at the same time, I wanted to do that too. So I began to enjoy myself. I didn’t show it on the outside but I was actually having fun! I was also watching one girl in particular. She was an alumni student who had attended the class previously in a neighboring state and knew what to expect, but she was so sweet, kind and helpful to the rest of us first-timers. She would explain things to us over and over that we didn’t understand about the class. When she was elected Governor at the end of the week, I remember watching her give her speech at Graduation in the House Chambers and thinking, “I want to be like that!” My comfort zone to expanded just a little. I had made friends – without assistance from my mom. That was huge for me!
The next year, I went into the class excited. This time, I had done the homework, I was ready and somewhat willing to participate in class, and I was excited to make more new friends. I was having fun until we started the class elections. A friend in my party nominated me to run for Senate and I was elected out of primaries into general elections – and the open forum, in front of 54 students. Now, at this point, my biggest fear was public speaking. Just the thought of it made me want to climb back into bed. However, when the open forum started the next day, there I was – calmly freaking out. I survived, but I had concluded to myself that there was no way I would ever do that again. (Once again, I was wrong.) Even though I didn’t win the election, and didn’t realize it at the moment, my comfort zone had expanded more. I had the experience of being in front of a group of people. I was a little farther out there.
“My comfort zone is SO much bigger.”
Last week, I went into the 2016 Tennessee class wide open. In the past year, my self-confidence has grown leaps and bounds. My comfort zone is SO much bigger. I’ve had even more experience with speaking in front of people and have decided that maybe – just maybe – it isn’t so bad. My goals for this TeenPact class included making friends with every single student – yes, all 67 of them – and running for office again. Amazingly, I did just that. I ran for Senate again and actually had fun in the open forum. When we heard election returns, I had won! I was surprised. Then concerned. Now I had to give a speech in front of all 67 students plus staff and parents in the House Chambers. However, when my friends asked me if I was nervous, I couldn’t say yes. You see, I was just going to be talking to my friends for three minutes.
The topic I picked for my speech was “comfort zone”. I told my TeenPact story and how TeenPact has impacted and changed me in a way I never thought possible. Finally, I encouraged all my TeenPact friends, new and old, to step out of their comfort zones, push their limits, try new things. When I sat down, I immediately flashed back to my first TeenPact class – sitting in almost the same chair, watching that one girl give her speech, and thinking, “I want to be like that!” I had done it. After Graduation, I went up to that girl – now on the staff team – and gave her a big hug. It’s amazing how one person’s actions can change someone else – whether or not they know it.
Now, I wake up every day excited, ready to look for ways to challenge myself and expand that comfort zone even more.
If you have a story about how God has met you on a TeenPact event, we would love to hear it! Send us your story at email@example.com.