San Francisco, Bay Area 2019 corps
Major: BHP Marketing and Plan II
McKenzie Hartmann spent hours of high school working toward the possibility of becoming a professional ballerina. While a triple stress fracture eventually made her change course, her grace and work ethic are still that of a professional dancer.
In fact, everything she does has the foundation of dance built into it. Today, McKenzie attributes much of her personal education philosophy to the fine arts high school she attended. “It was a very non-traditional high school experience because it merged a lot of people all over Dallas for the one common purpose of creating,” she said.
But the marriage of hardwork and creative wasn’t the only thing McKenzie learned in high school, “I like to say I discovered my brain because of a teacher at Booker T. Washington. Up till that point, I always did well in school and it wasn’t an issue, but I never knew I liked school until that teacher,” she said. As a 2019 Bay Area Corps member, McKenzie looks forward to the possibility of being “that teacher” for someone else.
While her high school experience was atypical, McKenzie has enjoyed the freedom and adventure of a traditional college experience at UT. “I’ve loved every minute of it, especially the Plan II classes, which remind me of the Booker T classes,” she said.
For McKenzie, college has been a perspective altering experience because she’s taken the time to explore her own values, and now she knows what she wants to work towards. “Figure out what makes you angry and figure out what you can do about it,” she said.
When she talks with her younger Plan II mentees, McKenzie says she advises them to just go for it, “I tell them to be bolder,” she says.
In a lot of ways, Teach For America is McKenzie’s way of being bold, making the choice to do something directly impactful instead of the predetermined path through school to work. “Ultimately I’m working toward law school,” she said. “But it kind of dawned on me that I could spend my gap years working for a company but having a negligible impact on the community around me, or I could do something that really mattered to me.”