Q+A with Hannah Gordon, Full-Hearted Social Worker + Literacy Activist

Meet Hannah, one of editor Sarah’s oldest and dearest friends. If it were possible for there to be a person that everyone liked, it would be Hannah. She constantly emanates warmth and acceptance and she is always going out of her way to not only get to know everyone who is lucky enough to meet her, but to help them. Her loving and close-knit family and group of friends is a true testament to that, as Hannah has the remarkable ability to bring people closer together. In Hannah, you can truly say that you have a friend who is always looking out for you and always there to listen. Her kind nature and gentle energy is infectious – she makes you want to be the best version of yourself and she constantly challenges you to do so. Though she isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, the strength that she has in her convictions is unparalleled. Without further ado, we are so excited to introduce you to the compassionate, intelligent, and gracious Hannah Gordon! 

The Basics

  • Age: 24
  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Education: Undergrad at Dickinson College, currently pursuing my Masters of Social Work at University of Pennsylvania
  • Field of Interest: I’m training to become a therapist and am specifically interested in the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety and depression.
  • What’s Your Favorite Thing About Yourself? I think my ability to listen to my friends and help them with issues they are dealing with. This is something that I truly enjoy and when I feel my happiest and most fulfilled.
  • What Are You Currently Listening To? I’ve been listening to a lot of The Shins, Tracy Chapman, and of course, Drake.
  • What Are You Currently Reading? Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

IMG_5758Questions + Answers

You recently completed a summer position in inner city Philadelphia working to improve the literacy rate in impoverished areas. Why is this such an important cause for you? What was your biggest challenge in this role?

I have always loved working with children, particularly in educational settings, and I also love to read.

During my year of service with AmeriCorps, which I completed last year, I helped run an afterschool program in North Philadelphia. This experience in particular highlighted the difficulties faced by children in inner cities and how important outside educational programs are to boost academic achievement and support children, families and communities in impoverished areas.

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This summer, working for Springboard Collaborative, I worked in a school in inner-city Philadelphia and helped implement the summer literacy program. The goal of the program was to end the “summer reading slide” that occurs particularly among children living in inner cities. When young minds are left idle for the three months of summer, they will lose up to three months of reading achievement, putting them significantly behind their peers’ reading levels, so it is crucial to take action to prevent that from happening. Springboard views parents and guardians as the main force of change in a student’s academic career, and guardians attended weekly workshops to build skills in helping their children improve their literacy. Our students on average made three months of reading gain over the six-week program!

The biggest challenge of this role was honestly having to leave the position at the end of the summer. I knew I was only going to be a part of the program temporarily, but I felt extremely attached to the children and their families, so at the end of my time there I was left feeling bittersweet. Though I know the program was successful and I had the opportunity to work with amazing children and their parents, this also was likely my last position working with children in such a hands-on way.

You are currently pursuing your Masters of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, with the ultimate goal of becoming a therapist. Was there a specific moment when you realized that therapy was your calling? Can you describe that moment for us?

When I was obtaining my Bachelor’s degree at Dickinson College, I had a professor who regularly told me about all of her experiences conducting therapy with individuals struggling with a variety of mental health disorders. She told me about different cases and how she maneuvered difficult client problems and adjusted her therapeutic approach based on the client’s presenting of issues and their personality. I remember having these conversations with my professor and thinking to myself, “This is a career? I could really do this – talk with individuals and help them navigate problems in their life.”

Though I obviously knew that therapy was a career path, this was the first time that I remembered everything clicking, and realizing that this was exactly what I wanted to do. And now, years later, next week I will meet with my very first two clients to begin long-term therapy!

What is a quality that is necessary for a social worker to have that you simply can’t be taught in a school setting?

Empathy. The core of social work is meeting clients where they are at, and empathy is the key to exploring client problems in a supportive and nurturing way. Though I definitely believe individuals can work to develop empathy, I also believe it is a quality that is inherent in many individuals who pursue therapy as a career.

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With that being said, you have always been extremely empathetic, whether it was navigating the dramatics of high school or helping one of your sisters through a tough time. How do you constantly stay so positive and emotionally giving without letting it affect your own personal state of being?

I would say that I naturally have a high capacity for handling others’ problems and stress, and I also get pleasure from helping others navigate their issues. Because of this, I do often find myself talking about distressing situations or handling others’ emotions.

Luckily, I have built a strong support network and I have amazing friends and a wonderful boyfriend who are also there for me when I in turn need to unpack my emotions or worries. I also have learned when to step back and self-care.

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You are one of the happiest people that I know. Do you have any advice on how to get the most out of your days in terms of happiness and satisfaction? For example, is there a routine or mantra that you follow?

Honestly, I just like to focus on the positive, no matter the circumstances.

Though I am generally a very happy person, I also am a worrier and can find myself ruminating on certain worries that lead to a negative cycle of thinking. When I find myself doing that, I make sure to remind myself of all of the positive things in my life, and how lucky I am to have the people in my life that I do.

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The negative stigma surrounding mental health issues is only recently being addressed appropriately and (hopefully) eradicated. What is something small that we can all do on a daily basis to give this very serious issue the respect that it deserves in society?

I think the number one thing we all can do is to be more open with one another, and in return be non-judgmental of others when they are expressing their feelings.

In our society, it is generally frowned upon to talk about feeling sad, or needing help, and instead we are taught to focus on solving our own problems. This can lead to many individuals not seeking the treatment that they may need.

If we are able to be more open with each other and normalize sharing negative feelings as we do with positive feelings, I think we will all benefit as a society.

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+ MAKE FRIENDS WITH HANNAH ON INSTAGRAM & MAKE SURE TO LET US KNOW OF ANY INCREDIBLE WOMEN WE SHOULD FEATURE!

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