Humans of Harker: Creating connections

Hannah Sobczyn strives to build communities through compassion

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Helen Zhu

“The idea of wanting to build a sense of community for everything that I was a part of is something that I strive for in everything that I do. It’s not just about becoming a better player or getting towards goals. It’s about making something out of each experience and learning something new, even if it’s something really small. It’s about taking something from each experience and applying it elsewhere,” Hannah Sobczyn (12) said.

With a light sprinkle marking the beginning of winter break, Hannah Sobczyn (12) and her brother Leo Sobcyzn (8) walk along the Los Gatos Creek Trail while sharing their reflections of the past few months. This trail is more than simply the trail used for occasional strolls; it is where Hannah learned to ride a bike, where she had family outings, where she grew up.

Shortly after Hannah had learned how to ride a bike, she and her dad rode from Campbell Park all the way to Los Gatos — a trek of over four miles. When she fell off her bike, her dad encouraged her to keep going instead of giving up, a lesson that remains with her nearly a decade later. 

“My dad always pushed me to be stronger, even if it is hard in the moment. When I look back at [my biking accident] now, I think about how he was just so calm in that moment and how I want to be able to face situations in a way that I didn’t just freak out,” Hannah said. “I want to be the person who’s constantly there for [my friends] … If my friend is having a bad day, I’ll bake them a batch of cookies. It makes me feel like I’m doing something for them and being grounded when they’re in a sea of chaos.”

Calais Poirson (12), Hannah’s close friend and recipient of her cookies, notes the care Hannah gives to those around her. 

“When we’re having a bad day, we would just put in AirPods together, listen to some throwbacks, and skip around school. That’s one of the most rejuvenating things that we do together,” Calais said. “Anytime somebody’s going through a rough time, she goes to their house, makes cookies and writes a two-page card for them. She’s very thoughtful and appreciative of the people around her.”

Similarly, close friend Meona Khetrapal (12) concurs that Hannah’s warmth and kindness stands out as one of her greatest qualities.

“She’s honestly a ray of sunshine. When she walks into a room, she immediately makes everyone smile; everyone’s always happy to see her,” Meona said. “She’s such a compassionate person, and she will always put her friends first on any given day.” 

Hannah’s passion and selflessness are recognized by those around her — not only friends, but also her teachers.

“[Her strength is] her heart, her kindness. [She is able] to see the world in all of its layers versus just taking a narrow approach to life,” mathematics teacher Jane Keller said. “She has a great passion for things that interest her, for the people that she cares about. She’s going to carry that passion into the greater world and do some really cool things.”

Since fifth grade, Hannah has played volleyball on her school and competitive teams. Having been the captain of nearly all of her volleyball teams, whether it’s the freshman and sophomore and JV girls volleyball teams at Harker or the Stingray Volleyball Club team, Hannah strives to create a community bond beyond just playing on the court. Having joined Harker as a freshman, volleyball served as Hannah’s main way to meet new people and to get a sense of what the Harker community was like. 

“When I think about volleyball, I don’t even think about playing the actual game; I think of the girls that I’ve grown up with, that I traveled with, that I make memes and TikToks with,” she said. “As a captain, as a teammate, [I want to] be that person who reminds everyone why you’re there, why you’re showing up to practice every day: because you want to build and strengthen your community. When my mom passed away, my volleyball teams were some of the biggest support systems that I leaned on.”

In addition to being a player, she also served as an assistant to her middle school competitive team, Stingray Volleyball Club, as well as the team manager for the boys volleyball team. Whatever her position, Hannah strives to provide the same inspiring experiences and community she had when she was in their position.

“As captain, as an assistant and as a manager, I always wanted to make sure that they fall in love with the sport, the same way that I fell in love with volleyball when I was in middle school,” Hannah said. “Choosing to manage was a big change for me because that was the first time I started going outside of just being a player and looking at the game in a different perspective.”

Just as volleyball has been an integral part of Hannah’s life, music has too — serving as a way for her to recenter herself. Throughout the years, her musical outlet has changed from performing in musicals and choir in middle school to making and listening to various playlists. Since her family takes one international trip a year, Hannah began making playlists on the plane ride to be able to remember the trip through the music. She listens to her playlist throughout her trip; however, she deletes the playlist after she arrives home.

“My dad is always talking about how nobody ever lives in the moment properly and how we’re always reminiscing on the past. I delete them because I want to be able to move on from the trip and not be stuck in this alternate universe,” she said. “I get to express my musical passions through my playlists now … Going on drives and listening to music and getting in that zone has strengthened my own self image more than choir ever had for me.”

Hannah’s desire to expand her global horizons didn’t stop at her international trips with her family. Inspired by her mother’s focus on learning about different cultures, Hannah decided to take both Chinese and Spanish in high school.

“When [my mom] was in college, she started studying Mandarin and ended up teaching English in China for a year right after college. That inspired me to take Chinese my first year at Harker,” she said. “I didn’t want to lose my passion for learning languages and getting to experience different cultures, so I started taking Spanish in my junior year. I wanted to remember that feeling of being grateful for the opportunities that Harker presents and find that love of learning, especially in regard to languages.”

Whether she’s serving as the captain of her volleyball teams or as a pen pal through International Outlook Foundation’s Outlook Pals Program, Hannah hopes to create an environment that she, her teammates, her coworkers, her peers — everyone — can reflect on positively.

“The idea of wanting to build a sense of community for everything that I was a part of is something that I strive for in everything that I do,” Hannah said. “It’s not just about becoming a better player or getting towards goals. It’s about making something out of each experience and learning something new, even if it’s something really small. It’s about taking something from each experience and applying it elsewhere.”