Steven Selk opens his e-mail to find a message from star varsity basketball player Hannah Raymond. Hannah requested an urgent meeting with both him and head coach Terry Graver the following morning. Selk was completely puzzled. What could possibly be so important? He thought maybe it could be about the multiple collegiate athletic opportunities she had acquired. He couldn’t be further from the truth. As Hannah muttered her news in shaking breaths to the two coaches, Selk was knocked back a step. He couldn’t believe what his ears were hearing. Hannah was not coming back next season.
Senior Hannah Raymond holds four state championship titles: one in basketball and three in tennis. She is an honor student, as well as a member of national honors society and student council. Yet, Raymond is graduating at semester and leaving it all behind. On January 1st Raymond is departing beyond the brick walls of Elkhorn South High School to spend nearly two months in Cape Town, South Africa.
Raymond started thinking of the possibility of graduating early during her junior year. She had been taking college classes at Metro for the past year and would have more than enough credits to graduate by the end of her first semester of senior year. Raymond had a hard decision to make: continue playing the sports she had been apart of her whole life, and finish her senior year out with the rest of her class, or move on to something greater. She sat down with her parents, and together, they came to a conclusion.
Raymond decided to spend her second semester of senior year volunteering.
“I knew whatever I replaced my second semester of high school with I wanted to be worthwhile. So I looked into volunteering somewhere, because it looks good on applications too, and I have a travel bug. I want to see everything,” Raymond said.
Raymond researched her options. She found the website International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ), a leading and credible volunteer agency, and there were countless projects and destinations to choose from.
“I chose Cape Town because it looked awesome, and a place I wanted to go,” Raymond said.
Raymond knew the decision was ultimately hers, but her parents were apart of the process.
“Obviously, my biggest concern is for her safety, but she is an experienced traveler. I trust her to make good decisions,” Raymond’s mom Chris Veitzer said.
After doing some research of her own, Veitzer jumped right on board.
“After learning more about the opportunity, I was fully supportive,” Veitzer said. “I think traveling abroad is an outstanding opportunity and privilege.”
Convincing Raymond’s basketball coaches proved much more difficult. Raymond typed out everything she wanted to say to them, so she wouldn’t forget anything.
“I just told them what my plan was, and that I’m super excited, but overall I think everyone was happy for me and what I was doing,” Raymond said.
Although Selk is going to miss having someone with as much experience as Raymond, he is impressed with her choices.
“To be able to commit to something like that [volunteering], and see yourself helping out as high school senior, is borderline beyond comprehension for me. I was proud of her, I’m obviously going to miss her, she is a great kid to have around in the program, but what she is actually doing is great work,” Selk said.
After getting all parties on board, Raymond started to put her plan together. She worked all this summer as an at home health care assistant for an elderly, 92 year old woman. She slept over at her house five nights a week, for thirteen dollars an hour. By the time the school year rolled around she had saved up enough money to buy a plane ticket to South Africa. Raymond also set up her schedule to meet the 42 credits needed to graduate, as well as getting a head start on college classes at Metropolitan University.
“Hannah has worked hard to put herself in a position to be able to go,” Veitzer said.
Accompanied by her mom, Raymond will depart the first of January for Cape Town. Her mom is flying her down to her program, and then flying back a few days later. Raymond will be staying in a volunteer house just 15 minutes outside of Cape Town in a suburb, Muizenberg. The International Volunteer Headquarters program provides her all of her meals, wifi, and all other accommodations.
Raymond does not know anyone else she is volunteering with. Her roommates will be five random people from around the world, all of ages 18 and older.
“I’ll most likely be one of the younger people there, just because not many people at this age are ready to do this I think,” Raymond said.
She is staying down there for just over a month and a half. The first month she will be volunteering for a sports development program, where she will organize after school activities for the kids at local schools and orphanages.
“She was especially interested in being able to volunteer with kids and relating to them through sports,” Veitzer said.
For the last half of Raymond’s volunteer program she will be working for a surf outreach program, where she surfs everyday and teaches the kids how to surf.
“I don’t know how to surf, but I’ll learn when I get there,” Raymond said.
According to Raymond, the Cape Town adventures don’t stop there.
“On the weekends you can do different excursions. I’m going to go shark cage diving while I’m there, swim with penguins, and go on a weekend safari. So it’s a lot more than just volunteering,” Raymond said.
Raymond arrives home February 13th, and is only back in the United States for two weeks, before she leaves for her second adventure of her semester off. She is flying into London and traveling Europe for an additional three months with a family friend. She is paying for the entire trip herself.
Throughout all of Raymond’s time abroad she will be taking online classes at Metro. Raymond will continue to do so at wifi cafes in Cape Town, as well as her entire trip in Europe.
“I rather do my online classes while looking at the Eifel tower,” Raymond said.
Finally on May 15th, Raymond will be back in the United States for good-or at least until her next adventure- just in time to graduate with the rest of her 2018 class.
Raymond plans to attend the University of Colorado Springs next fall and major in nursing. She hopes all her traveling and volunteer experience will help increase her opportunities in the nursing field.
“Besides the life experience that she will gain from this opportunity, I think it can open many doors for her in the future. It could have an impact on college scholarships, study abroad programs, and potential future jobs,” Veitzer said.
For now, though, Raymond is just focusing on her departure to a new world.
“I’m just done with this stage of my life and excited for the future. Plus I know I’m going to fall in love with the kids while I’m there,” Raymond said. “It’s just going to be a new experience and I think I’m going to learn a lot, and grow as a person.”