In the Spotlight   

Ashley Hahn '18, SHU Servant Leader Award Winner

Ashley Hahn '18, SHU Servant Leader

Logan Stagnitto '18 nominated his classmate for this annual award: "I am in awe of all she does on a daily basis, and the amount of work she dedicates to her fellow human beings."

“I am obsessed with community service and with helping people,” said Ashley Hahn '18. “Any opportunity that I have to help out, I will take.” Seton Hall University recognized Hahn's dedication by presenting her with its annual Student Servant Leader Award. The Award recognizes students, like Ashley, who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to giving service. A celebration dinner was held on April 12 for all award winners.

Logan Stagnitto '18, Hahn's classmate, nominated her for the Servant Leader Award and spoke of her in a moving tribute video presented at the awards dinner. In his nomination letter he wrote, "I have not known Ashley very long – only since the beginning of the school year... But, in that short time, she has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to service, an inspiring amount of leadership, and so much more."

Hahn's dedication is passionate and lifelong, beginning early in her childhood when she would help her father, a volunteer firefighter and EMT, at department fundraisers. As she grew older, she became a tutor and mentor.

In high school, Hahn pursued mentoring and advocacy work, much of it dedicated to helping others who experienced abuse or trauma. Hahn is a triplet, and she and her two siblings were removed from their abusive home at the age of 9 by the Division of Youth and Family Services. In her application essay for the award, Hahn wrote, “In high school I shared my story as an abuse survivor, for the first time, after learning that a mentee was experiencing abuse at home. Inspiring her to get help showed me that I could use my experiences to make a difference in the lives of others.” Since that time, she has focused most of her energies to help women and children suffering from abuse, violence, and trauma.

While still in high school, Hahn became a Lieutenant Governor of the New Jersey State Key Club, and was a driving force in choosing their advocacy campaign for the year. She chose to focus on children’s issues and spent the year spreading awareness about child abuse and family violence.

At Bryn Mawr College, Hahn put her leadership skills and boundless energy to work for women and children suffering from abuse and trauma. She was a founding member and leader of the Circle K Community Service Club as well as the Child and Family Studies Consortium. In college, she started volunteering at the Women’s Center of Montgomery County as the youngest court advocate in the program’s history. Hahn still returns to the Montgomery County Courthouse to help victims navigate the often frightening and intimidating court system by facilitating protection order agreements, and providing emotional counseling and legal options counseling.

Hahn also worked as an assistant therapist at a preschool intervention program in Pennsylvania, which helped young children suffering from emotional, psychological, and behavioral problems. She began on the same day as a young three-year-old boy who was listless, expressionless, and would not interact with anyone. For several months, she worked one-on-one with him, playing games and completing therapeutic exercises. “My last week as an assistant therapist was his last week as a participant,” she recalled, “And when we were last together, I realized the extent of his transformation as he was smiling, talking, and playing. I was so grateful to have played a role in making a difference in his life.”

After graduation, Hahn spent a year as a Thomas J. Watson fellow, an independent international travel fellowship, which gave her the opportunity to serve the global community. She shadowed judges and advocates over six continents and 14 countries. In her essay, she wrote, “I ventured into the heart of homes, communities, legal systems, social welfare systems, government institutions, NGOS, safe houses, support groups, and charities around the world to learn different approaches to helping children and families who have experienced abuse or trauma.” She volunteered alongside experts in each new country, trying to make a difference in the individual lives she touched, while learning different approaches to these issues from a policy perspective to improve outcomes in the U.S.

Service is not just something that Hahn “does,” it is the way she leads her life. Stagnitto concluded, in his letter,

...Ashley’s work extends beyond the big works to the mundane.  I can recall just the other day in Property, when five of us in class were unable to take notes due to a presentation we were giving.  Without being asked, Ashley sent all five of us our notes for the day, without asking for anything in return.  She is very quick to see other people in need, and just as quick to offer help...

Her love and respect for all those around her knows no bounds.  I am in awe of all she does on a daily basis, and the amount of work she dedicates to her fellow human beings.  She is a model student and a model person.  She exemplifies everything that the Student Servant Leader Awards represents...

This summer Hahn will continue to serve those who need her through the Deborah T. Poritz Public Interest Legal Fellowship where she will work with Advocates for Children of New Jersey. “When I graduate, I may do direct legal representation, or I may also work on the policy side to improve how our legal and social welfare systems help victims of family violence,” she said. “I know I’ll spend my life doing advocacy work, it’s just a matter of in what capacity.”