Volunteering time in local area, RPI’s Price on path to empowering community, finding path to self-determination

By Nicole Haase

For the second straight year, Rensselaer senior defender Hannah Price is a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award.

The Pittsburgh native has made a massive impact not just on RPI’s campus, but in the greater university community of Troy, N.Y. in her time at the school.

Currently serving as president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) after serving as a team representative for the last three years, she’s also president of the RPI Food Recovery Network, her team’s Team Community Service Coordinator and has created or spearheaded a number of different initiatives on campus, from Fresh Check Mental Health Days and reading partnerships with local grade schools to campus involvement with Special Olympics.

Per the university press release on being named a finalist for the Award this season, “Price’s leadership style is derived from her empathy and sincere concern for the needs of others. She exemplifies the Engineers’ team values – Love, Integrity, Family, and Toughness – which spell out the acronym L.I.F.T., from which the phrase ‘Lift Up’ is used within the program.”

Committed to making a difference at a local and global level, Price said her time at RPI has helped her coalesce who she is and what she wants to do with her life.

“My academics at RPI have really taught me about the largest of these issues, but my experience as a volunteer has also shown me how little, little actions mean a lot. My work was food insecurity and my research about lead exposure and lead poisoning made me aware of how environments shape communities and communities shape environments and that’s what really pushed me on the environmental law path. Seeing the interconnectedness between multiple layers of issues is really important,” she said.

At a summer internship with the New York State Attorney General’s Office and their Environmental Protection Bureau that was extended until January, Price conducted non -legal research to help the attorneys enforce environmental laws on behalf of New York State and that helped solidify for her that she wants to attend law school and pursue a career in environmental law. She intends to take a year off and play hockey professionally in Europe with a plan to return for law school in the fall of 2024.

“I’m just really excited about pursuing environmental law and public policy to empower communities and their path towards self-determination, rights over their land and things of that nature,” Price said.

There is no single correct way to volunteer or give time. Price disperses her time and talent among a number of organizations but sees all that work as interconnected. When the Food Recovery Network ends up with more food than they are able to use or distribute, Price uses her contacts in other organizations to make sure the food doesn’t go to waste and another need within the community is filled. At the end of the semester, she organized a food drive so students could use the remaining money on their campus food plan to purchase non-perishable food that was distributed through the Food Recovery Network. Every organization and all the time spent volunteering are an opportunity to extend impact.

“We have a responsibility not only to support – but also to advocate for – others in the Troy community,” she said. “Service is a way to directly connect with the greater Troy community, which can make ripple effects that encourages a whole environment of positivity. It all requires people coming together to collectively make an impact.”

The ripple effect isn’t one big reverberation of a boulder dropped in one spot, with Price, instead, it’s dozens of small rocks strewn all over who’s ripples are smaller, but overlap each other and cover a lot of ground. It’s in the overlaps where needs and opportunities that might look very separate are actually all aligned. Mental health issues, poverty, food insecurity, poor school performance, food deserts, homelessness, climate change and polluted soil are just a few of the issues that Price works to alleviate in Troy and all of them can be tied to one another.

Being involved in so many different organizations also helps her bring more volunteers into the fold. She takes great joy in matching people up with volunteer opportunities that speak to them. There is a cycle of volunteering wherein community needs are met and help is given, but the volunteer’s life is also enhanced by the experience. Price wants to find a situation for every willing volunteer that leaves them feeling that way.

“Volunteering is something that has really made me grow as a person and has really kept me grounded. That feeling of cohesion and connectedness to the community around me, I want to be able to share that with other people. I want to help people find entry points into community service, which is going to carry through for the rest of their lives,” she said.

“Individual acts themselves may not seem like much, but in bringing people and bridging people together, you can help to build a culture of service, which goes a long way. This year I’ve been trying to encourage and bring people along with me, rather than just engaging in these activities alone. It’s about bringing people in together to make a larger difference.”

It’s her ability to see the big picture and plan a career that will work on large-scale, governmental and institutional change while also serving food, reading with children and handing out hygiene kits on a day to day basis that makes her so impressive – and such a force to be reckoned with. She’s driven and well aware of the harsh realities of her city, country and world. But she’s also realistic and maybe even a little idealistic and convinced that important, necessary work can be done at the grassroots level while also working for bigger change.

Price has changed what it means to be a student-athlete at RPI. She has fostered connections, helped strengthen a culture of service and given of herself in a way few do in a lifetime, much less before they graduate college. She did it while double-majoring in Economics and Sustainability Studies and in the process made multiple Dean’s List and ECAC Hockey All-Academic teams.

Service is at the core of who she is and always will be. The college hockey world is just incredibly privileged to have been one of her overlaps.

“This work is not over since I’m graduating this year. It’s something that I tend to carry with me for the rest of my life and I’m really excited about pursuing a career where I’m able to continue this work,” said Price.

“My goal in life is to leverage my academic and athletic and volunteer experience to inspire real change.”