Fluvanna native wins volunteer of the year award

Fluvanna native wins volunteer of the year award

By Ruthann Carr, Correspondent

With a name like Haden Parrish there’s no doubt this 22-year-old is from Fluvanna.

Parrish’s roots are in Fluvanna, but that doesn’t mean he is afraid of the outside world.

Quite the opposite.

He spent the last four years at the University of Virginia (U.Va.), he’s traveled to Ghana and Australia, took four semesters of Swahili and after working as a guidance counselor at his alma mater – Fluvanna High School – has plans to get his master’s.

Maybe the strength of his roots allowed him to fly.

Parrish was honored as U.Va. Madison House’s Volunteer of the Year.

As he wound down from finals and prepared for Saturday’s (May 19) graduation ceremonies, Parrish took the time to answer a few questions.

What is your degree?

I am graduating with two degrees, one in African and African American studies, and one in sociology.

How do you plan to use it?

For the next two years, I will be a college advisor in the Virginia College Advising Corps serving in Fluvanna County High School. This job is my dream next step, and I am beyond excited to return to the school that raised me to be who I am today. Beyond this two-year program, I plan to go to graduate school for either student affairs in higher education, counseling, or training in crisis intervention (or a combination of those three).

Tell us some of your favorite college experiences.

Although college had its ups and downs, it’s hard to narrow my favorite experiences. I had the great honor of meeting Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor my first year and hearing Secretary Hillary Clinton speak my fourth year, two heroes of mine.

I took four semesters of Swahili, and although I’m still not great at it, the community in the class is unforgettable, and we even took a field trip to my farm in Fluvanna.

Two of the most fun experiences were my study abroad trips, the first in Australia my third year and the second in Ghana my fourth year.

My most rewarding and challenging experience was being a resident advisor to two first-year guys’ floors my second and third year – two years that I will never forget.

And although it’s cliché, now that I am graduating I am able to look back and know that I was able to achieve the thing I feared most coming into college: making lifelong friends and support networks.

How old were you when you first volunteered?

I’m not sure how old I was when I first volunteered, but it may have been on a mission trip to the Eastern Shore with Byrd Chapel United Methodist Church.

My love of service I think picked up during my time as a member and president of the Interact Club at Fluvanna County High School. Interact taught me how to be a leader, how to take advantage of and spread the knowledge of resources, and to maximize one’s impact in the community.

My dad and I started a Buddy Ball baseball team through Fluvanna Youth Baseball, a baseball team for athletes with special needs.

I also served on the Farm Bureau Board of Directors (I believe I was the youngest director ever elected in the Commonwealth) and on the Fluvanna County Parks and Rec Advisory Board. Those two boards were not volunteering experiences, but they were chances for me to get to know different communities in the county, and I credit both of those experiences with building my confidence to serve in leadership positions.

Tell us about your involvement with Madison House.

For the past few semesters, I volunteered through U.Va. Madison House in a program called HelpLine, a short-term crisis intervention hotline. The service is confidential, anonymous, non-judgmental and non-directive, and is open 24/7 in the spring and fall semesters.

Our catchphrase is, “We are here to talk. No problem is too big or too small.” We serve any caller, student or otherwise, local or international. We are there to listen to anything the caller wants to talk about, whether it be a bad day, thoughts of self-harm, or an expression of joy.

I tried to experience as much of HelpLine as I could, including serving on the outreach and marketing committee as well as becoming a trainer for incoming volunteers, eventually being trained and training others on 90 hours of material. Although lines are closed for the summer, HelpLine will be open in the fall and the number is 434-295-TALK.

How did volunteering affect you? How will it inform your future?

HelpLine quickly became the most important organization that I am a part of at U.Va. HelpLine became the community I needed because, as I have realized since, I was going through an extended period of depression and HelpLine gave me support, lifelong friends, and the ability to help others.

Although my mental health battle was an aggressive one, I have been able to overcome it and in some ways benefit from it. I was lucky, but many people struggle with depression for much longer or even their entire lives, not because of their own actions or lack of actions, but because it affects each individual differently.

HelpLine was just a part of what I needed to recover, but it helped me to understand what I was facing and gave me the resources to fight my way out of it. HelpLine helped me to realize that mental health battles are something that many or most people face, and the best way to contribute to good mental health is to talk about all mental health.

I hope to expand upon my service in HelpLine in the future and find a career where I can work in crisis intervention, to help people find the tools and resources to overcome big and small hurdles in their lives.

Finish this sentence: I wouldn’t be where I am today without…

I wouldn’t be where I am today without Fluvanna. My parents, aunts and other family members passed on to me a long legacy of service to and love of the county, a place I plan to spend the rest of my life.

Our land and my cows taught me to value the little things, the things that don’t make sense, and the things that matter even when they are beyond my understanding.

My family’s store, E. W. Thomas, taught me that anyone and everyone deserves quality service, and we should do everything we can within reason to make that possible.

My teachers and guidance counselors taught me to value learning, to question everything, and to appreciate when possible and to fight for change when it’s not.

Countless numbers of my friends at U.Va. (and my Swahili class) have been out to Fluvanna to get a small taste of the place I am always talking about, and although I have come to understand that Fluvanna may be an acquired taste, everyone says that they’ve never seen me happier than when I am with my cows.

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