Hawthorne, a human service studies major, interned with Benevolence Farm during the eight-week Campus Alamance program.
The Campus Alamance initiative provides students the opportunity to take the skills they’ve acquired at Elon to go out into the community and apply those skills working with some of the university’s most important community partners.
Several of the 40 interns who participated this summer shared their experience in the program and the lessons they’ve learned working in the community for eight weeks in this series of articles for Today at Elon.
When Hana Hawthorne ’23 began interning with Benevolence Farm, she was uncertain if the environment would be a good fit for her.
She started at the farm through an internship for a Human Service Studies class with Lecturer Monica Burney. The internship started remotely, and because of that she wasn’t as involved in the everyday operational activities as she had hoped. But once she shifted to working at the farm and met the people there, it became clear to her that she had found a special place.
Founded by Tanya Jisa in 2008, Benevolence Farm is a fully functioning farm and residential program that seeks to support and advance individuals who have been impacted by the criminal justice system in North Carolina. Jisa started Benevolence Farm in response to the increasing rates of recidivism for women leaving prison in the state.
“The day I met the residents and went to the house for the first time on the farm, I remember everyone being so welcoming. The team is so supportive, and they care about one another, and they care about their residents,” Hawthorne said.
Her obligation to Benevolence Farm for the human service studies class had ended but both Hawthorne and the farm wanted to continue the relationship. Benevolence Farm had been an inaugural partner of the Campus Alamance initiative at Elon and thought it would be a good opportunity for Hawthorne to get involved.
“She had enjoyed the work and we enjoyed having her as she’s a great addition to the team. So, we recommended she look into Campus Alamance,” said Kristen Powers, executive director of Benevolence Farm.
Headed by the Student Professional Development Center and the Kernodle Center for Civic Life, the Campus Alamance program is designed for all Elon students, regardless of major or grade. Each student involved is given a $2,000 stipend from the university for the eight-week long internship with one of 28 community partners.
Located on 13 acres, Benevolence Farm supports women transitioning from prison. The residents at Benevolence Farm help make candles, soap and body care products from the herbs and flowers on the farm.
“This farm, this organization, you will not find anywhere else. It is truly a beautiful place,” Hawthorne said.
As a member of the support team, Hawthorne’s daily duties include a little of everything. She assists with the re-entry process, the enterprise market, transportation of residents, organizing outings, research and fundraising. Even though the Campus Alamance program concluded for the summer, Hawthorne continues to work at Benevolence Farm part-time.
Hawthorne came to Benevolence Farm dedicated to activism work. She organized anti-racism protests in her Maryland hometown during the 2020 wave of civil unrest. She was also influenced by her cousin to get into social activism. He passed away at 26 after being failed by the prison system, and it was then that Hawthorne decided that a life in social justice and helping those who deserve second chances was the life for her. A life that working at Benevolence Farm has prepared her for.
“I just want to help people. I feel like I was put here for a purpose and that is to help others who cannot help themselves, who don’t have voices,” Hawthorne said. “Activist work has been amazing because it showed me how strong as a community we are and how we can come together and support one another and share the same values.”
Powers said Hawthorne’s eagerness to help others was evident from her first day at the farm. But in the following months, she has grown and developed a willingness to broaden her skills in new areas.
Hawthorne has always put her all into helping those in need. Although she has been a positive influence on others, it has been the people at Benevolence Farm that have made a lasting impression on her.
“Feeling wanted, feeling cared about by this team and the residents is a beautiful thing,” Hawthorne said. “I’m very grateful to be working there.”