Helping children fuels Faith valedictorian (w/video)
May 29, 2014 at 12:29 a.m.
Updated May 30, 2014 at 12:30 a.m.
Hannah Gomez lights up as she holds a Guatemalan child in her arms. The girl, dressed in a bright pink Hello Kitty T-shirt, runs her small fingers over Hannah's cheek and hair and smiles.
"Gringa," the child says.
Hannah was last in Central America a few years ago and gleamed when the little girl recognized her fair skin and blonde locks.
Hannah, 18, of Victoria, has always had a special place in her heart for children, and as she prepares to graduate Sunday as the valedictorian of Faith Academy's class of 2014, she's elated to begin her collegiate career, in which she'll major in children's psychology. Hannah will attend Victoria College in the fall before transferring to the University of Houston-Victoria.
"I'm more of a homebody," she said about her choice to stay in Victoria after graduation.
Her family is here.
Her church is here.
"I'm not one of those people waiting to get away," she continued. "I like Victoria."
Hannah is a lifelong member of Faith Family Church, and with the church and her mother, she's traveled to Central America on several mission trips, visiting Belize and Guatemala. Her church runs an orphanage in Guatemala, and Hannah said the experience of seeing so many children abandoned by their parents changed her life.
"It made me look at life differently," she said. "They don't have anyone who loves them, and I want to love them."
Her mother, Veronica Gomez, said seeing Hannah on the mission trips was like seeing a whole new side of her daughter.
"I saw passion in her eyes," she said. "Every time we'd go, tears would be welling down her eyes, and when we'd leave, she'd still be talking about those kids."
Hannah said bonding with the children during the mission trips and taking an introductory psychology class as a dual-credit course in high school solidified her decision to pursue it in college.
"I just want to be in that environment," she said. "I want to help kids with issues.
"I want to love them."