Fort Benning, GA | October 11, 2012
Fourteen-year-old Hannah Rauhut didn’t expect her class project on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to launch her to where she is now — working for A Backpack Journalist and interviewing important military figures, publishing articles with Emory University and speaking about her life as a military child.
While an eighth grader at Faith Middle School, she gave a presentation on PTSD for her class project. She said PTSD was a subject she knew little about until Libbie Kurenic, her eighth grade gifted education teacher at Faith Middle School, suggested it. However, from the beginning stages of the project to its finale, which included a presentation to her class — she gained a connection.
“It just gave me a wake up call — it brought perspective and insight because I didn’t even know this existed before I started studying PTSD,” she said. “So it made me realize ‘wow, some people are actually going through this struggle and it’s really sad’ — and I wanted to do something about it.”
Her research and interest, she said, led her to become a volunteer with the Warrior Outreach Horsemanship Program, formally known as the Wounded Warrior Horsemanship Program. While volunteering for the event, she met Linda Dennis, program manager of A Backpack Journalist who was interested in her PTSD research. Hannah said after giving Dennis her project, her life “blossomed into what it is now.”
A Backpack Journalist helps military children and teens find their voice through creative expression, according abackpackjournalist.com. The organization trains youth between the ages of 12 and 18 through hands-on experience in areas such as photography, writing, filmmaking and editorial cartooning.
“Since I’m a military brat and growing up in a military community — it’s always given me that strong connection with it,” Hannah said. “I’ve always loved helping people and just being able to do it for the Soldiers and their Families. It’s really inspiring to me and it’s something I want to continue to do.”
Hannah’s first assignment with A Backpack Journalist, she said, afforded her the opportunity to interview retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and CEO of One Mind for Research, a nonprofit organization focused on brain injury and mental illness awareness and research. She also interviewed wounded warriors and Barbara Rothbaum, clinical psychologist and director of Emory University School of Medicine’s Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program who conducts PTSD research, she said.
Rothbaum heads the BraveHeart Initiative, a collaboration between Emory University and the Atlanta Braves, which offers support services to military veterans and their Families, according to an article published on Emory University’s website.
“I never expected it to go this far — I honestly thought it was just going to be another school project and that I was just going to be done,” she said. “It was the end of the school year and I would (have) probably forget about it 10 years from now. I’m surprised at how much A Backpack Journalist has just kind of taken what I’ve done and just gone with it. And I’m blessed and honored to be able to do this and share this information with other people and spread awareness.”
Hannah credits Kurenic with getting her to where she is today.
“She taught me how to present (my project) and how to write a research paper,” Hannah said. “I wouldn’t be writing for Emory or probably not even be a part of A Backpack Journalist if wasn’t for her teaching.”
Both of her parents, Col. Michael Rauhut, commander of 197th Infantry Brigade and Sandra Rauhut, said they encourage, support and are proud of their daughter.
“She likes to help people and if we can encourage and support that and (its) something she likes to do — then we are all for it,” Sandra said. “We’re willing to take her where she wants to go.”
Hannah has the opportunity, Sandra Rauhut said, to help spread awareness for PTSD and help children whose parents have it.
“You look for what your child is passionate about as they mature,” Michael Rauhut said. “For me it was very gratifying because without my coaching she took on something that is important to me and our whole Family and the Family that we are part of — the Army Family. I was really happy to see that. So it was very easy as a parent then to just continue to reinforce and encourage and support her in any way we can.”
With new opportunities emerging, Hannah said it is sometimes a challenge to balance her academics as a freshman at Columbus High School and her new responsibilities.
“But you have to find that balance between helping others in your community and also taking care of yourself,” she said.
She advises other youth to go after what they want without fear.
“Even if it sounds impossible,” Hannah said. “I mean, I just thought it was going to be a research project and now I’m going to Washington D.C. in a couple of weeks — I had no idea that that would ever happen to me in my life. So don’t be afraid to just follow your dreams.”
Hannah will be covering the Association of the United States Army Meeting and Exposition and the Army Ten-Miler in Washington D.C. at the end of next week with A Backpack Journalist.
You can find Hannah’s interview with Chiarelli by visiting, www.braveheartveterans.org/videoembed.php?id=2. For more information about Hannah’s project and her work with A Backpack Journalist, visit www.abackpackjournalist.com/middle-school-student-takes-on-ptsd-as-a-research-project and at www.youtube.com/user/BPJVideos/videos.