Meet Jessica, an Idaho teen who volunteers with the Idaho Humane Society.

At age 10, Hannah Verdi found herself in front of an audience at a karaoke club in California. She was scared.

Hannah’s cousin, who knew she liked to sing, had urged her to try karaoke. Once Hannah got the courage to sing Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” that night, people began handing her tips. “People were holding up one- and five-dollar bills—I made $150 that night,” she recalled. “So I went back every Friday and Saturday night! I became known as ‘the girl who sings Adele’.”

Hannah, now a junior at Coeur d’Alene High School, continues to refine her vocal talents as a member of chamber choir. She’s discovered another passion—drama—and it turns out she’s pretty good at that, too.

Freshman year, Hannah tried out for the Competitive Drama Team, for which students perform pieces in various categories like humorous, serious, or musical ensemble. That year, Hannah was cast in Hairspray with one other student, and the next year, she placed first in the state in the Solo Humorous category—performing a peer-written monologue about a librarian—and second in Musical Ensemble Theater.

Hannah has since placed first several other times, including another Solo Humorous and a Solo Musical, for which she sang “Burn” from the Broadway Musical Hamilton.

“It was a risk to sing ‘Burn’ because Hamilton is so new and so popular right now,” Hannah explains. “It’s easy to think ‘You’ll never be able to do it better than Broadway did it’—but I did it, anyway.”

Hannah has also tried her hand at writing scripts and one, for the Solo Humorous category, made it to the “Finals Room” (i.e., the top selections) at the state competition. “It’s such an amazing feeling to know that, out of 60 or 70 entries in that category, I wrote something that’s in the top eight!”

Hannah is drawn to the magic of performing. “Really, it’s about the process, not the product,” she says. “There’s this amazing process of transforming into character. It’s so cool to know that the audience is watching you, but not as you, as the character.”

For her role as a fairy godmother in the school’s performance of Cinderella, Hannah looked to her love of music to get into character. “I created a playlist to set the mood, and I sang the songs as her, and would think about how she’d walk, her elegance, her poise, and her kookiness.”

Not one to sit still, Hannah is gone from 6:30 a.m. until about 9 at night, at school and after-school drama practices, whether for Competitive Drama Team or as a cast member of the current school play. She also holds down a job on weekends, manages a local coffee shop’s open mic night, and is starring in a friend’s short film about three pizza delivery people recruited by the government to save the world.

Hannah’s commitment to drama and music has led her to an equally passionate group of friends who support each other’s positive efforts. “I’m very dedicated to my friends,” she says proudly. “To make these friendships that you know you will have forever is amazing. It feels so good to have friends who support you and come to your performances and are there for you.”

And discovering and honing her passion is already shaping Hannah’s future adventures. “I KNOW I want to study musical theater and go to Broadway—this is something that will definitely be in my future!”

“Take a risk. The sky’s the limit. Find something you love and pursue it.”