August 24, 2021

The Social Institute Student Influencer Program: Introducing Mary Kate Hurst

This summer, The Social Institute launched our first-ever student influencer program where we highlight impressive students on our Instagram every Tuesday. Each week, a different student is selected to take over our Instagram and highlight how they act as a positive influence and inspiration in their communities.

We are excited to introduce Mary Kate Hurst as this week’s student influencer. She is a sophomore on the varsity volleyball team at Gaston Day High School. Mary Kate is a volunteer with the BackPack Weekend Program. The BackPack Weekend Program provides nutritional non-perishable weekend meals to students in the Gaston County area. Each month Mary Kate works to take inventory, pack meals, and deliver meals to schools in her area.

Mary Kate Hurst

We interviewed Mary Kate to learn more about her. Here’s what she had to say:

What do you value about yourself or others?

Mary Kate: One value that I uphold is honesty. To me, honesty means telling the truth even when it’s hard and you are put in tough situations. I prefer honest criticism over flattery because it helps me grow and shows that the other person values me.

What are your personal goals?

Mary Kate: Some of my personal goals include graduating high school knowing that I tried my best in each class, leaving my town knowing that I left my mark in our community, finishing college with lifelong friends and quality education, and hopefully having a close-knit family that values faith.

How do you expect to feel as you go back to school this fall?

Mary Kate: Covid has had an extreme impact on the norms of everybody’s lives. Wearing masks, having to sit 6ft away and not be able to get close to your friends, and sitting at your house on your computer watching your teacher are all things that students around the world have experienced in this last year. Thankfully, my school was able to make last year semi-normal by allowing us to go to in-person classes, but with many precautions and rules. Because I was able to go to in-person school last year, I am not as overwhelmed or nervous about the transition back to school. In fact, I am excited and hopeful that this year will be slightly more normal!

What are the things you try to accomplish each day?

Mary Kate: Every day, I aim to start the morning with a positive attitude. I greet each student or teacher I pass with a smile as I enter school because I have found that the purest happiness comes from helping others. Next, I always aim to pay close attention and participate in class throughout the school day. Usually, after school I have indoor volleyball or beach volleyball practice; there, I strive to give 100% effort. Lastly, I like to end my day by hanging out with my family, doing anything from watching a show to playing a board game.

What or who inspires you most?

Mary Kate: I would definitely say that my older sister, Lauralee, inspires me the most. Throughout high school, she was an avid, year-round volleyball player and an incredible student. She would go to volleyball practices an hour and a half away, 2-3 times a week, while still managing to study hard and get all of her work done. In fact, she graduated high school valedictorian. This has truly inspired me to work hard and push myself to take a rigorous course load each year for school and try my best to study hard.

How has social media acted as a positive influence on your life?

Mary Kate: Social media has had a profoundly positive impact on my life because it has given me the opportunity to keep in touch with family and friends that live far away. Also, it has given me the ability to show random acts of kindness through DM-ing others or commenting on others’ posts and allowing me to celebrate others’ accomplishments. Lastly, social media acts as a memory bank for me because as I grow up I can look back on posts from when I was younger.

Of our Seven Social standards, which one would you most resonate with and why?

Mary Kate: The social standard that resonates the most with me is Strike a Balance. Nowadays, social media can become addicting and time-consuming. For example, what feels like ten minutes of scrolling on Tik Tok can all of a sudden turn into an hour of just sitting and scrolling on your phone. I am proud to say that over the years I have learned how to prioritize my time, and not allow social media to interfere with my values. School is one of my most important values, so doing little things like completely shutting down my phone when it’s time to do homework or study is a big deal for me. Also, one problem that has been normalized in society is to be surrounded by family or friends, yet no one is talking because everyone is on their devices. It is easy to quickly become consumed by your phone, but being able to have self-awareness and start conversations with others to stay connected while off devices is a great skill to have.

If you could go back and talk to your younger self, what advice would you give to him/her about navigating social media or social relationships?

Mary Kate: I would definitely recommend to my younger self that social media is a wonderful tool that can present awesome opportunities, as long as you use it appropriately. For example, being able to partner with The Social Institute for #takeovertuesday is such a unique opportunity that would not have been possible without the ability to contact people over social media. However, these opportunities would not be possible if you were misusing social media and creating material that is not appropriate.

Mary Kate’s work ethic and values are worth celebrating, and we cannot wait to continue to follow her journey as she makes an impact at the BackPack Weekend Program. If you know a student who is accomplishing great things, we want to highlight them! We love sharing impressive students with the world. Contact us here.

About The Social Institute

The Social Institute partners with schools nationwide to empower students, families, and educators to positively navigate social-emotional health, social media, and technology. Schools access our student-respected, turnkey curriculum through, an interactive, gamified learning platform. With solutions for students, parents, and educators, we offer a systemic and comprehensive SEL program through a unique and positive approach. We are proud to serve public and independent partners such as Ravenscroft School, Woodward Academy, Oldfields School, All Saints Episcopal School, Lake Forest School District, Boston Public Schools, and more. For more information on how to empower your students to make high-character decisions online and off, please contact us.