Year after year Minnesota is consistently ranked first or second in the country when it comes to volunteerism.
As a volunteer at Eastman Nature Center, 16-year old Hannah Wachtler combines her love of teaching and her knack for nature. "It was just kind of always a part of my life," Hannah said.
Hannah has been volunteering at the nature center since she was 11-years old. She was recently recognized for the 600+ hours she's put in. Not because she had to, not because it's good for her college applications, but because it's her passion.
"I just love it. Science and education are my two big loves and that's definitely what I'm going to do," Hannah said.
And that genuine connection may be what's fueling Minnesota's volunteerism.
“Volunteering isn't something you do because it looks good or it takes you somewhere," said Karmit Bulman.
Bulman runs the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration. She believes anyone can learn to serve, but it can also be inherent.
"I think it is instilled in us, as Minnesotans, particularly at a young age that this is what we do. We take care of our communities. We take care of our family. But our family is bigger than those in our immediate environment," Bulman continued.
And as service swells beyond our immediate circles, it grows more powerful, sometimes creating sweeping social and cultural change.
"I think now people are realizing that volunteering is a way to make a social statement without necessarily taking to the streets or calling yourself a radical. That you can volunteer because you want to make the world a better place," Bulman said.
Bulman said we see that ripple effect here in Minnesota. The state also ranks at the top for philanthropy, health and wellness and civic duty.
"Volunteerism is the ultimate form of democracy," she said.
And of all the cool things Hannah will teach these kids this summer, that's what she hopes they'll remember most. That one small act of giving back can inspire others to pay it forward.
"Everything we do here we hope to inspire them and give them a better appreciation of the natural world. That's what we're here for."