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Stories of us: Altamont | Beecher City | Dieterich | Effingham | St. Anthony | Teutopolis

Art is the Constant. Calm is the Thing.

Leah Hanfland Effingham High School

History has its lessons, its hardships, and its silver linings. At 18, Leah Hanfland has experienced her share of each. And her personal history has accrued as a stockpile of insights and empathy. She looks at her friend, Jackeline, and admires her courage and kindness. She sees the relatability, authenticity, and talent wrought by hard work and dedication in Mr. Huber, her art teacher. Her younger brother — a freshman this year — causes her to reflect on her younger self and on what she’d tell that person about what lies ahead. “Focus on your eternity,” she’d say. “A lot of the stuff you’ll think matters just doesn’t,” she’d tell her freshman self. She is possessed of a kind of contemplative character uncommon in most people I know who are three times her age. For her, ‘calm’ seems to be both the journey and the destination. 


And, so, enter art. Leah’s been making art since she was a young girl, and these days she loves to do portraits in charcoal. But her real love is in the possibility of bringing a small corner of her state of Zen to high school students like herself, as a teacher, after she graduates from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis — IUPUI. Leah expands, “As a high school student, life is coming at you so fast, from all different directions.” We talk about it, and exchange stories of profound high school shifts we’ve both experienced. And how those shifts — some of them tectonic — have shaped whom we’ve become. Expectations mount, friendships evolve, families morph, but life goes on, and art soothes. She sees herself, one day, helping students gently navigate some of those sharp edges through a kind of introspection she seems to have found in the act of creating and appreciating art.


IUPUI will give her a big city backdrop from which to explore her world and continue the exploration of herself. She will seek to study abroad, as the opportunity presents; Leah is a daughter of Effingham, but she is a citizen of the world. And she intends to stamp her passport with a broad range of experiences she hopes to share, inspiring others and providing them with tools others have so generously provided her.

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