If progress lies with the next young generation of Coloradans, then our future looks bright. Meet outstanding student philanthropists like Savannah Franklund and Maggie Berry, seniors who have overcome odds and started their own therapy programs at home and abroad. Check out Peter Coggan, a sophomore crunching cancer data alongside Baylor researchers, and senior Hannah Isenhart, founder of Hanimals Greeting Cards. Some may underestimate the abilities of teens to foster real change, but these four students from Dawson School in Lafayette would prove them wrong.
Loss inspired Savannah Franklund, 17, to help others.
When Savannah Franklund was 15, she lost her father. In order to help other children who have lost loved ones, Franklund started Healing Hooves, an equine and art therapy summer camp for children, all by herself. “Losing my dad was definitely the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with,” she said. “I wanted to take my grieving process and give to kids and help and show them what I learned.”
Franklund has been riding horses since she was three years old. Now a senior at Dawson, she received a scholarship from the Wolf family in 2016. She enlisted the help of Acres of Opportunity Ranch as her host for the camp, a therapeutic and educational riding facility in Lafayette.
Franklund put together a three-week camp for 16 kids under the age of 12. She ran equine and art therapy classes, where students were able to bond with the horses and use their creativity to express difficult emotions. Franklund, with the help of staff at Acres of Opportunity, taught riding lessons and led group art projects.
“One of the biggest challenges was finding people and the trust of families and parents. Not everybody is going to trust me, I’m not even graduated from high school, much less have a degree in anything,” she said. “Not everyone is willing to give their kid who has just lost someone in the hands of myself.”
Franklund works for a behavioral consultant clinic and plans to pursue a degree in occupational therapy after high school. She developed an interest for graphic design throughout high school. She’s also drawn to behavioral and art therapy and wants to utilize her talent to work in mental health helping others. “The biggest reward for me was seeing kids go through what I went through during my grieving process and knowing I’m not alone.”
Maggie Berry uses music to transcend language and culture in a Ugandan oncology ward.
Not many teenagers have traveled out of the country, let alone done so to start an art and music therapy program in a pediatric oncology ward, but Maggie Berry is a standout.
Berry first visited Mbarara, Uganda, during her freshman year on a service trip. Berry’s parents are supporters of the Mass General Center for Global Health, a hospital which aids the Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital and its children’s programs. Berry was moved by the experience and formed an immediate connection, wanting to find ways to help.
“I felt like, ‘I’m in high school, what can I do?’ I can’t perform surgery or anything like that,” Berry said. She has played piano since she was five and benefits from the soothing emotional and mental effects of music. “It’s very therapeutic for me, and music is integral to Ugandan culture. It transcends the language barrier. So much of global health is about the medicinal benefits, which is so important, but a huge aspect of recovery is mental health. The importance of a healthy mind while undergoing treatment is often overlooked.”
One of the biggest challenges Berry faced was figuring out how to make the programs sustainable in her absence and without a clear understanding of specific needs. Berry created a YouTube campaign video and consulted with several therapists, psychologists and other professionals to gain a better knowledge of how to make a lasting impact. “I really enjoyed fostering a group of people who can implement the program and make change,” she said.
Berry and another student, James Mooney, raised over $54,000, along with a grant from Mass General to help finance art and music therapy efforts for Mbarara Regional. She was able to return to Uganda last summer and continue working on the program. The money raised was enough to fully fund and staff the therapy program for the pediatric oncology unit, extend it to the malnutrition ward and hire a full-time translator for Berry while she is in Uganda. When Berry graduates, she will pursue higher education in Massachusetts, but is happy to know her work in Uganda will be continued.
Peter Coggan, 16, works with Baylor researchers to help find causes of cancer.
Sophomore Peter Coggan is fascinated by biology and learning more about the inner workings of the human body. Coggan, 16, is assisting researchers at Baylor University with their analysis of protein interactions and working to identify possible causes of cancer.
Coggan and other students use large databases to look at how proteins interact with each other further understand potential cancer causers and slight mutations in genes. They then use AI to analyze the data. This misuse of proteins is what can cause cancerous qualities within a cell.
Coggan started this work during his freshman year, and has taught himself elements of biology and coding needed to work with the research. As data science is a large emerging field, Coggan feels it is also a valuable skill set to enhance during his time in school. “Everyone doesn’t like cancer, and the sooner we cure it the better,” he said. “By looking at these data interactions and finding anything that could potentially tackle and attack cancer is really a good idea.”
After high school, Coggan intends to pursue biology as a career. “I just think learning is by far the most fun thing you can do,” he said. “It’s awesome to tackle new skills and figure out more about the human body and everything. Just how interconnected and complicated the body is is absolutely fascinating to me.”
Hannah Isenhart’s “Hanimals” greeting card proceeds aid polar bear conservation.
Budding entrepreneurs like senior Hannah Isenhart show that you can make a difference and have fun while doing it too. Isenhart started a greeting card business when she was just eight years old. Isenhart’s father is a photographer, and the two would go out in nature with Hannah’s stuffed animals and create the cards from the images she captured.
Now, 10 years later, Isenhart’s cards, “Hanimals Cards” are in six different stores around Boulder, including Lucky’s Market. Isenhart works with the stores and business owners and stocks the cards herself.
“I just have always loved photography,” Isenhart said. “I always felt drawn to taking pictures and had a lot of fun doing it. It’s a fun way to make money.” The cards gained recognition by word of mouth through Isenhart’s parents and their friends, then she started thinking about ways to turn it into a business.
A third of the proceeds from the cards sold goes to Polar Bears International, an organization of scientists and volunteers dedicated to raising awareness and advocacy for the conservation of polar bears and their habitats. “They’re just so cute and fluffy,” Isenhart explained. “Also with climate change and the difficulties they’re facing now, I thought they could use some help.”
As an involved senior student, time management has been a challenge for Isenhart, who also plays soccer, the viola and participates in a youth goal leadership that works on social justice issues. “It’s kind of hard to run a business while you’re in school,” she said. “Finding time where I can expand my business has been kind of hard.”
Isenhart wants to expand into Denver and possibly Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as create new products like mugs, keychains and notebooks. She’s grateful for the opportunity that the business has presented the ability to do meaningful work and make money doing it. “A lot of my friends have babysitting jobs or something like that but I’m glad that I get to make money doing something I love and also be out in nature,” she said. “I feel rewarded from it too because I’m helping something bigger than myself with the money that goes to the polar bears.”