Andrew How is a fourth-year in the College of Arts & Sciences, double-majoring in Biology and Psychology. He is involved in Autism Allies, Special Olympics, the Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA), Martha Jefferson House, Crisis Text Line, and Heartland Hospice.
In Autism Allies, Andrew works in in a mentorship program, in which he works one-on-one with a young child with autism. In Special Olympics, Andrew in involved in their basketball and swimming programs, helping individuals with various disabilities get exercise doing activities they enjoy. JABA is a program that allows Andrew to work with people with memory problems, and they can play games, tell stories, and watch movies in the facility he visits. At Martha Jefferson House, he interacts with elderly individuals and keeps them entertained, playing board games, card games, and music with some of the residents, and he enjoys hearing stories about their lives. Crisis Text Line is an online service in which Andrew talks to people in crises, such as those with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, and he tries to guide them to a calmer state of mind. Over the summer, Andrew volunteered at Heartland Hospice in his hometown, where he tried to comfort elderly individuals in hospice and provide them with a friendly face with which to interact.
How did you first get involved in public service?
I'm a pre-med student, and I'm interested in being a psychiatrist, so I wanted to work closely with small groups to really help people in a more one-on-one way, rather than trying to do something that involved huge groups. Also, my younger brother has special needs, so I was particularly interested in working with people with similar disabilities.
What has been most rewarding?
The most rewarding aspect of my community involvement has been knowing that I'm helping people engage in activities they enjoy even when things may be more difficult for them. Working largely with people with disabilities and memory problems, I know that they often have trouble doing the things that the rest of society takes for granted, and thus they're oftentimes not given the opportunity to even try to do these things. However, I think it's important to remember that even if a person has more difficulty doing something than someone else, it just means that they and we as a society need to work a little harder to help them do it; it doesn't mean that they can't do it.
How do you expect to be involved in the community in the future?
I plan on continuing working with the organizations with whom I'm already working, and maybe if new opportunities open up, getting involved in some others. Innisfree seems like a great place, and I'd love to volunteer there at some point! Also, I've previously only done swimming and basketball with the Special Olympics; I'd like to try my hand at some of the other sports.
How would you encourage others to get involved?
I would say that no matter your interests, there's something for you to do in the community. Maybe it's not even through UVA, but there are so many kinds of organizations in Charlottesville and beyond that you'll definitely be able to find something you want to do. Volunteering is also easy to fit into your schedule and your personality type; I'm pretty introverted, but I found out about Crisis Text Line, and it's great because I get to give back and I don't even need to leave my room! I would encourage everyone to volunteer, even if it's only something for an hour a week, because it's so rewarding and really means a lot to the people with whom you work.
Who at UVA has truly inspired you?
I've been inspired by a lot of people at UVA, but I feel like saying one person in particular inspired me wouldn't do justice to the other individuals who have helped shape my college experience. In all honesty, I feel as though the University itself has inspired me the most; seeing the rich history we have here and the fervor with which people like Jefferson fought for what they believed in, whether noble or ignoble, has helped me strive to be my best in every facet of my life.
If you could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?
These questions are always tricky, because I don't know what the limits are: does saying I would eliminate poverty, disease, sadness, and starvation and achieve world peace count as "one thing"? I'm not sure. Honestly, I would just make sure everyone was given a fair chance at showing what they're capable of. There are so many people with amazing potential who never get to show what potential they have, just because others ignore them. If I could change one thing, I would just want to be the voice that told people, "Hey, give them a chance."
Where is your favorite place to eat on the Corner?
I don't go out to eat much, but I do like pizza, so probably Mellow Mushroom. I will need to try some more places, though!