When dropped off at preschool, Ryann Hankey rarely turned around to wave goodbye to her mom.
Instead, she’d run off alone into new adventures, ready to attack the day head on.
Hankey, who today is an eighth-grade student at Frederica Academy, has held on to that spirit of independence. She aspires still to embark upon challenges and to grow from the experience.
One of Hankey’s upcoming challenges will be a three-week trip to Bali, Indonesia, this summer. She has been accepted into the Global Leadership Adventures program, sponsored by the Peace Corps. Hankey will work with Bali’s Children’s Education in Action program.
“As a kid, you don’t really see much of the world out there. You kind of just see what your parents have set for you and what your school allows you to see,” Hankey said. “So by going to a place like this, there really isn’t a filter. You kind of see everything how it is.”
Participants in the program teach children at local schools, learn to scuba dive, explore the culture and more. Hankey was inspired to apply for the program by her own desire to travel.
“I’ve always loved to help little kids, and that just seems like a fun experience to go do, just to hang out with the children and teach English,” Hankey said. “I just thought it would be an amazing experience.”
The program’s cost, along with the price of airfare to Bali, isn’t cheap. Hankey applied and won a scholarship. She’s also raised money babysitting, and making and selling crafts.
But to bridge the gap and raise the remaining money needed, she’s set up a GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/ndqkv-global-leadership-trip.
“I just think it’s a really cool experience for any kid my age, just to be able to go out there and not learn through others and just be able to see it for themselves,” she said. “I think it’s just amazing to be able to have that opportunity to do that and just be able to experience that for yourself.”
Hankey’s efforts to not only apply for and earn acceptance to the program but also to raise money for the trip are evidence of her independent attitude, said her mom Catherine Chmelar.
“She’s got a big entrepreneurial spirit, and she just wants to go and experience and see the world, without us painting it for her,” Chmelar said.
Hankey was in fourth grade when she decided she wanted to attend Frederica Academy. Chmelar, a single mother, said she knew she couldn’t afford the school’s tuition. So Hankey applied for the single scholarship offered to rising sixth graders — the Connor Landis Frederica Scholars Award— and won.
“It’s a competitive scholarship,” Chmelar said. “She applied, and she got it. She just makes things happen for herself. It’s just impressive.”
Chmelar hopes that her daughter will gain through this trip a sense of empathy and understanding for the lives of others around the world.
“I just want her to see other people’s stations in life and widen her horizons and really see the world, like she said, with no filter,” Chmelar said. “She gains that larger perspective.”
Hankey has little interest in depending on others to make experiences available to her. She’d rather seek out those opportunities herself and do whatever it takes to achieve them.
“It’s not just going to happen,” she said. “You have to make it happen.”