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From pretending to be invisible to shining in the commencement spotlight

To say Central Lakes College Honors student Hannah Maloney likes a challenge would be an understatement.

Sure, she’ll jump at just about any new experience. But she prefers the really tough ones…the challenges that make her nerves skyrocket, her voice shake and legs weak.

One of her recent, most proud challenges is coming to an end: Going to school at CLC. She’ll leave the school with parting words of wisdom as one of the Brainerd campus commencement speakers, representing CLC’s Honors Program.

Her journey at CLC started three years ago. She was in her second gap year after high school. Hannah always wanted to do more with her education. The problem: People. Being around so many people made Hannah anxious. It got so bad in high school that she would pretend to be invisible when a teacher asked her to do something. She would even map out an exit plan to avoid interacting with her peers at Brainerd High School. Hannah spent the last part of her high school career in online classes to ease that anxiety.

But two years after finishing up high school, Hannah was done dreading school. She wanted to have fun. So she enrolled at CLC.

She chose classes that were smaller, which is how she was drawn to Honors courses. Honors classes are more fun, Hannah said. “The teachers really let you do more of your own thing.”

In class, Hannah made a point to talk to her instructors, voicing her concerns or problems before they ballooned into something too big. But it wasn’t always easy. On her first day in class, she stood up to introduce herself, but blurted out “please don’t look at me” and started crying. Hannah laughs about it now.

There have been a few times in her college career that resulted in tears. But it’s getting better, Hannah said.

She’s tried to accelerate the growing process by putting herself in activities that would keep her on campus instead of retreating to the safety of her home. It started with joining the Global Connections Club with a friend. That led to attending Student Senate meetings, which kept her aware of events happening on campus, which she made sure to attend.

“It’s gotten fun flinging myself into these situations just because I don’t want to do them. I’m realizing they aren’t so bad,” she said.

On Hannah’s busiest days, she’ll find herself on campus from 8 am-10 pm.

“I really pushed myself to get involved because I knew it made me uncomfortable.

Am I past it? Not at all. It’s a little frustrating, but I have to keep working on it to be over my fear,” she said. And Hannah will keep trying new things until she runs out of things she’s afraid of.

Hannah’s next chance to work on that fear is in transferring to a four-year school, where she’ll likely major in microbiology. She’s excellent at science, but not so great at math, which is a big part of the field.

“There’s a lot of information out there that I really want to learn. I want to get better in math and understand this stuff,” she said. So Hannah will dive right in.

Eventually, Hannah sees herself working in a career studying the spread of infectious diseases.

Adam Marcotte, CLC English instructor and Honors Program coordinator, said Hannah represents the best of the mission of the Honors Program.

“The CLC Honors Program encourages students to move and shape the world around them, and ultimately make their communities a more positive place,” he said. “As our mission states, we make sure students explore, aspire, and then lead during their tenure in the Honors Program, and the results are transformative. Hannah represents the best of those goals and our mission. She came to CLC and the program with incredibly creative language skills, an unrelenting drive to learn, and the self-awareness necessary to grow. We may have offered her the opportunities, but she took them. She did the work, she earned her leadership skills, and I know our community…our country even…will be better off as a result of her engaged citizenship.”


For more information about the Honors Program, visit:


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