The Girl Who Makes a Difference

2007, in the small town of Norfolk, NE, the Norfolk junior high school cafeteria was crammed with students headed towards a large poster that hung across the wall. The students had been assigned the task of writing their future dreams upon the poster. One by one, children walked up and posted their dreams. A young boy approached the board and wrote “I want to be a doctor”, a giggling girl wrote, “ I want to be a singer”, and between the engineering wannabees and college basketball dreamers, stood a girl with a different idea of what her future would hold.

The girl with a mane of vibrant orange ringlets, glasses before her eyes and braces lining her teeth walked hesitantly up to the board. Though she was timid and soft-spoken, she was confident about her dream and she forcefully posted it to the wall. A dancer, track star, basketball player, and academic, the girl had her fair share of plausible dreams to write down. Yet unlike the other boys and girls, she did not wish to be a ballerina or an Olympian, she had one simple hope for her future, and it was this, “I want to make a difference”.

This young girl was Hayley Henriksen, and make a difference she has.

Growing up as the daughter of teachers, she has always had a passion for learning. This love of learning has led her to discover her numerous passions in which she hopes to leave her positive mark.

One such passion is climate change. As a ninth grader, Henricksen viewed the Al Gore film, An Inconvenient Truth, and was immediately impacted. This film led her to give a persuasion speech to her class surrounding the dangers of climate change.

Henriksen said, “It’s just kind of funny that as a ninth grader I was talking to my fellow students about climate change when they probably had no clue what I was talking about…But it’s been something I’ve been very passionate about.”

For the following Christmas, fifteen-year old Henriksen gifted her parent’s energy efficient light bulbs with the hopes that she could build a more climate change conscious household.

Henriksen’s knowledge and passion for climate change was once again heightened when she had participated on a service and justice trip in West Virginia. On this trip, she became aware the negative impact West Virginia’s high-energy usage and coal production was having on the environment.

“It’s just been like this issue that I cared about so much because I was overwhelmed by the problem.”

Through little acts of awareness every day, Hendrickson tried to make her own, small dent in alleviating the threat of climate change, but it was not until she embarked on the backpack journalism trip, that she saw how she could actually be making a difference for climate change.

Henriksen knew that in traveling to Alaska, there was a chance the topic of climate change would emerge, but the fact that the interviews have geared the documentary towards climate change more than exceeded her expectations.

Henriksen said, “Now there’s something that people can see that will maybe impact them and hopefully help them see that climate change is an issue that should be a priority.”

The climate change issue is just one example of the numerous times in which Hayley Henriksen has worked to make a difference in the world. She has also interned for the Obama campaign, been a part of the Cortina Service Learning campaign, and worked at the Salvation Army. She hopes to in the future work PR for non-profit organizations and to leave her positive mark on the Omaha community.

Hendrickson and her Alaska hat enjoying the view of nature and her favorite animal, the moose. Photo courtesy of Catherine Adams
Henriksen and her Alaska hat enjoying the view of nature and her favorite animal, the moose. Photo courtesy of Catherine Adams

“My life has been kind of a journey to try and find how I can make a difference.”

Henriksen has already lived up to her eighth grade expectations and is sure to continue making a difference throughout her life.

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