Anna Claire Hay – Arkansas Interview by Olivia Bush Nomination by Raygan Sylvester Photography by Jodie Kelly Photography Issue 38 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
The Nomination: After Anna Claire Hay watched her brother save someone’s life by saying five simple words -“You can sit with us”- Anna Claire went on a mission that took her all the way to Capitol Hill to lobby state senators about the importance of accepting others for their unique character qualities. Her message has reached the ears of over 15,000 students in numerous countries. She recently published her own book on the topic, available on Amazon. When she’s not volunteering, Anna Claire serves as captain of her cheer, track, and trap shooting teams at school and reigns as the current Miss Arkansas Teen USA.
Photography by Jodie Kelly Photography
Tell me more about the process of how You Can Sit With Us got started? YCSWU started when I witnessed the impact of my brother saving someone’s life by stating those 5 simple words. I’ve always had a passion for volunteering and had been speaking to schools and civic organizations about anti bullying, inclusion and diversity. What you and how you say can help people develop confidence, competence, and self-control. Words can lift people up to their highest potential or tear them down and bring them down to their lowest lows. After traveling across the state of Arkansas and speaking to over 10,000 students mainly elementary aged kids I realized there were not a-lot of resources out there to help educate the younger generation on the impact of inclusion, so I self-authored a book that I now share when I go to speaking engagements. This book is for sale on Amazon for others to purchase to share.
How can other people spread this same message of inclusion, diversity, and equality that you are spreading? I believe we all need to make diversity and inclusion more of a priority. Feeling like you belong satisfies one of the most fundamental of human needs. It’s that sense of belonging that fuels the fundamental idea behind diversity and inclusion at work. I started an You Can Sit With Us Ambassador program that puts ambassadors in schools and civic groups to ensure there is always a point of contact and go to person to encourage inclusion, diversity and kindness within these organizations. When you feel included you feel valued and important.
What is it like getting to speak at so many schools and organizations? Can you share with us a little of what you tell them? I feel honored each time I am asked to speak to a group. Knowing that I have a chance to encourage and empower them and potentially initiate change encourages me. If I can give students access to resources that can help them to build confidence and work in the direction of attaining growth and transformation, then I have done my job. I focus on talking to them about the power of their words, what it means to be B.R.A.V.E, how to be inclusive and encourage diversity. I believe when you can demonstrate a life applicable lesson it’s easier for kids to understand why, so I try to incorporate life applicable lessons when speaking to students.
Photography by Zac Grimaldo
What was going through you head when you found out you won the Arkansas top youth volunteer award? What other volunteer projects have you done? I had no idea I had been nominated for this award so when I was called into the principal’s office at school, I was somewhat a taken back. To hear I was chosen out of 13,000 applicants out of the state of Arkansas to represent Arkansas in Washington, DC at the National convention I was ecstatic. I can honestly say to date this is the greatest honor I have yet to receive. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the United States’ largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. Created in 1995 by Prudential and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the program honors middle level and high school students for outstanding service to others at the local, state and national level. Thus far, it has recognized more than 140,000 young people who’ve made a difference – and inspired countless others to consider how they might contribute to their communities. The Spirit of Community Awards program also honors youth volunteers in countries outside the U.S. where Prudential has a significant presence: Japan, Taiwan, Ireland, India, China and Brazil. I also have served two terms on my cities youth council board. While serving on the Springdale Youth Council Board I became involved in the workings of our local government, had the opportunity to job shadow City officials, performed community service projects for the benefit of Springdale residents, offered advise to local government officials on the issues that face young people in our community, and learned about local government and the importance of civic participation. I stay actively involved with my Teens with Integrity and You Can Sit With Us Platforms speaking time many schools, churches and civic organizations. I actively volunteer with the Chick-Fil-A Leadership Academy.
How did you get your book published one Amazon? Can you share with me more of what the publishing process is like? Let me just start by saying one of the things I’ve been challenged with my whole life and that’s been hard for me to talk about publicly is my disability. I am dyslexic. Reading, spelling sometimes writing those things are challenging for me. Although I am intelligent I had to understand that I learn differently from most people so if you would of ask me if I thought I would of ever written a book the answer would of been a firm NO!!! I had a wonderful support team to assist, a great family friend to illustrate the book a brother who provided the story for this book as well as a lifetime of character and life lessons and last but not least supportive and loving parents. It is a project I’m super proud of and something I hope helps lots of people.
Photography by Kelly Hay
What is the hardest thing you’ve ever accomplished, and how did you do it? I think the hardest thing I ever accomplished was getting You Can Sit With Us spread internationally. My goal is to have ambassadors and the message of You Can Sit With Us in all 50 states.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be where you are today? You can really do anything you set your mind too. I know that might sound so cliche but it’s so true. I have made sacrifices missed out on social activities and in many cases lived a little different life than some of my peers but it’s all about choices. I have kept my eye on the prize and my ultimate goals. It takes self-discipline and dedication, it takes perseverance and sometimes reminding yourself that if at first you don’t succeed try again. It takes supportive loving parents and support from friends and family. For me, a key part has been my relationship and walk with my lord and savior.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years/what are your plans for the future? In the next 5 years I hope I have been accepted to medical school at UAMS and I am on the road to becoming a physician.
What is your favorite activity or pastime that wasn’t in your nomination? My dad and I duck hunt. I love the spending time with him doing something he enjoys; I love being outdoors and the challenge of the hunt.
Do you have a hidden talent? What is it? A year ago I learned how to high jump and I absolutely love it... I have enjoyed running on the track team for last couple of years in high school but never considered jumping until last year. I tried it and now I’m hooked.
Photography by Kelly Hay
If you could publicly present any topic to a group of your peers, what would it be and why? Anti bullying... it’s such a problem on so many levels. It’s in our schools, workplaces, churches, nursing homes, everywhere we go. I encounter women all the time that still remember situations and things that happened to them in high school. All those years later and these things are still impacting them!!! So yes this is something that if I could educate on and talk about I will anytime I’m given a chance.
3 Things on your bucket list *skydive *having peanut butter *getting a banded duck
What about you inspires others/why do you think you are inspiring? I hope my work ethic, ability to connect with others, kindness and passion for my platform is inspiring to others.
Anna Claire will be featured in issue 38 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!