As part of our ongoing Alumni Series, Jacob Bassett, one of the founding members and inspirations for Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference, interviewed Haley Lehtola (now 25) who was involved from eighth grade through her senior year in high school.
After graduation, Haley continued to make a difference through her work serving disadvantaged populations both in her community and overseas, and in her role as a leader in Volunteers of Around the World.
As a teaching fellow, she’s taught groups as large as 250 and credits Hands4Hope for giving her the space to hone her public speaking skills and develop confidence in her abilities.
Read below to find out more about how Haley’s experience in Hands4Hope inspired and empowered her to lead and serve while she completes her mission of becoming a doctor!
As Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference completes its 14th year of serving the community, it’s always a good idea to look at those who got us to this point: our youth participants.
Over the past decade and a half, Hands4Hope has had so many youths join up and make astounding impacts upon the community and even the future generations of volunteers.
One of these special individuals is Hands4Hope alumni Haley Lehtola.
Haley began her career with Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference in the 8th grade after being recommended to the organization by a friend. After a few outreaches, she found herself enjoying the work and did her best to pursue this volunteer career further.
“It started as just outreach, but then when I got to high school, I got more involved. I joined the Hands4Hope school club… I began leading Team Hope, the elementary school club and continued to get more involved. By my senior year, I was Youth Board President.”
She found that through Hands4Hope, even though she was a youth, she could really make a difference. The confidence and skills that she learned through her participation in Hands4Hope activities continue to bolster her, even today.
After high school, Haley tried to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that she wanted to help people with whatever she did, which eventually led her to pursue a career as a doctor. She went to college and got a degree in Nutritional Science and is currently in medical school, doing her best to benefit the world.
While she may not be terribly involved in Hands4Hope these days, that doesn’t mean she isn’t doing her absolute best to help those in her local community, and even around the world.
In Berkeley, she led Kids In Nutrition, where she would give lessons on the importance of healthy eating to elementary school classes in under-resourced areas. She also served in a leadership position at Volunteers Around the World and spent a few weeks every year traveling to developing countries to provide medical services. While in medical school in Los Angeles, she continues to serve her local community through the Pomona Community Health Action Team providing free health care screenings and wellness clinics throughout the year.
“A little goes a long way in terms of helping out in the community. It doesn’t have to be something huge, but just going out and doing an outreach event can be a ripple effect and make other people more inspired,” noted Lehtola.
In addition to this, she boasts that her experience in Hands4Hope gave her the confidence to pursue various leadership roles throughout her life. Her studious attitude and public speaking skills eventually landed her a fellowship program within her medical school.
“I was recently accepted into a fellowship program at my school. We teach the first and second-year students and lead various other events in the school, so being able to get in front of a group of 250 students and teach a whole hour-long lesson or organize a campus-wide clinic are important skills. I think that Hands4Hope really helped develop me into a leader in that way, and as a teacher, and I’m just more comfortable in that space because of my work with Hands4Hope.”
Now with only two years left of medical school, Haley is gearing up to help as many people as she can. Through her volunteering and vast array of medical knowledge, there’s no doubt that she’s going to do some truly amazing things.
And with that, she left this message to future Hands4Hope participants:
“You really can make a difference, and even though you’re not an adult and you feel like you don’t really have much of a say in things, sometimes your voice speaks even louder because you’re the future and when you say something confidently, people will listen.”
CLICK HERE TO READ HALEY'S YOUTH SPOTLIGHT FROM 2012!