Tompkins Cortland Community College

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Hannah Wildenstein

Tompkins Cortland was a stepping stone for HannahHannah Wildenstein

All-American, all-region, and all-conference on the soccer field. President of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. Youngest United Way Community Campaign Board Co-Chair ever.

Any one of these recognitions would be the highlight of an exemplary college career. But for Dryden High graduate Hannah Wildenstein, these were the highlights of just her first three semesters at Tompkins Cortland Commuinity College.

"I guess I am busy," she said back in her Tompkins Cortland days, prior to a successful transfer to the College of St. Rose in Albany.

At Tompkins Cortland, Hannah majored in Business Administration and maintained the above-3.5 GPA required for PTK. She enjoyed a remarkable career with the Panthers women's soccer team, earning national from colleges throughout New York. And she even spent six months in Denmark at a prestigious soccer academy.

"It's just soccer, soccer, and soccer," she said before embarking on that trip, with a smile betraying her primary interest in life, improving on the soccer field. "And some skiing in the Alps."

Another smile betrayed yet another interest in life: going fast on the ski slopes. Although at that time, Tompkins Cortland staff kept repeating that she should ski at "reasonable speeds" and "slow speeds" and "really slow, bunny hill speeds … or why don't you just hang out in the lodge?"

At the same time concern was expressed about her passion for reckless skiing, there was an absence of concern for her ability to acclimate to a new culture, in a faraway land, and to a foreign tongue. And this was explained, rather simply, by yet another interesting fact about Hannah: She speaks Danish. Fluently. Her mother hails from Denmark, and Hannah grew up speaking the language. So, the transition?

"I have a slight accent," she said, "but I think I'll be fine. People like accents, like when someone comes here from England." And, it can be reported now that she has returned, she was fine.

Back to the United Way before we run out of words summarizing her accomplishments: That relationship began in high school when Hannah was part of the Youth and Philanthropy program through BOCES and the United Way. That morphed into the FOCUS program, a United Way initiative Hannah helped to bring to Dryden. Then she volunteered on the United Way's community investment board and for a handful of other organizations.

And then, finally, with years of experience behind her at the ripe old age of 19, she was chosen as the youngest-ever co-chair of the Community Campaign. One of her co-chairs had recently completed a 40-year career at Ithaca College, the other is the CEO of CFCU.

Good company.

"At first, I felt a little funny being the youngest person in the room, but I got used to it," she said. "It's a huge commitment from August to March, with some weeks that have three meetings … and also reading over letters and campaign details and finding new businesses. But it's good experience and helps the community."