Hi everyone, my name is Hannah Early and I am from Lynchburg, Virginia! I am a senior at Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!), majoring in sociology and minoring in professional writing and consumer studies. I am thrilled to be part of the team as a JDRF Advocacy intern this summer!
My life changed dramatically when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at the age of 13. I am the first person in my family to have T1D, so it was a huge adjustment for everyone to learn the ins and outs of the disease. Being diagnosed as a teenager meant that I had to make lifestyle changes that I had never given thought to before – I now have to count every carbohydrate I eat, pay extra attention to my blood sugar before and during exercise, and carry more items in my purse than any girl should have to.
I was the only student with T1D at the all-girls boarding school I attended. There were times where I felt quite alone and I felt that no one understood the challenges that I faced. Despite these feelings, I started a JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes team in 2009 for my JDRF Chapter in hopes that I would gain support from my school community. Little did I know how much that Walk team would positively impact my life through all the energy, encouragement, and financial support for T1D research that I received from family, friends, classmates, and teachers. Ever since that first Walk I have remained involved with JDRF and have joined them in their mission to find a cure. Even though I still feel frustrated with my diabetes at times, I know I’m not alone and that’s partly due to JDRF’s continued drive to create a world without T1D.
In 2013, I found out about the Students With Diabetes (SWD) organization, founded by Nicole Johnson (Miss America ’99 and a T1D herself). That summer I traveled to Tampa for the SWD National Conference where over 100 young adults with T1D and their type 3s (anyone who supports someone living with diabetes) met, bonded, and connected in a way that I had never before experienced. It was at that conference that I fully realized just how much a cure for T1D is needed, but I also realized that support is crucial when it comes to dealing with a chronic condition like diabetes.
Last summer, through the Students With Diabetes internship program, I interned in JDRF’s Marketing department in New York City. While I had been involved with JDRF for years through Walks, I had never known what goes on “behind the scenes.” My experience last summer was incredibly rewarding both personally and professionally! I am so thankful I had the opportunity to be part a part of the amazing New York team.
In the fall of 2014, I co-founded the current Students With Diabetes chapter at Virginia Tech. It began with just two of us Hokies with T1D and has since grown to ten! Even with a student population of more than 26,000 undergrads, it has been difficult to meet other students with T1D. I am so grateful for the support and friendships I have made since starting the SWD chapter. Whether it’s been getting together for dinner, volunteering for Virginia Tech’s Big Event, or group messaging to vent our diabetes frustrations, it’s been amazing having this group of T1Ds!
I couldn’t be more excited to be interning with JDRF once again this summer! Living and working in Washington, D.C. has proven to be full of new experiences and adventures! I have already learned so much about all of the different components of Advocacy at JDRF, and I can’t wait to experience JDRF 2015 Children’s Congress and see what’s in store for the rest of the summer!