The Character Movement

Hannah Merlo going down head first down a slide on a playground

Wisconsin Character Award Winner – Hannah Merlo

Each year, the Youth Frontiers Character Award honors students who stand out as exceptional leaders among their peers. During the 2016-17 school year, we honored two students with this award including Hannah Merlo, who at the time was a senior at Waterford Union High School.



At Waterford, Hannah was known as a positive leader who devoted her time to activities that directly served others including Best Buddies, Project: Play it Foward and Youth Frontiers. Hannah also made her school community more inviting by serving as a guide, ambassador and friend to new students. Hannah was nominated by Waterford’s Dean of Students, Brian Belot. In his nomination letter, Brian said how “Hannah’s impact can be felt all throughout our school. Hannah leads other students by example and goes above and beyond to positively change the culture of our school and community. She finds the best in others, treats everyone with respect and empowers those who have been marginalized.”

Today, Hannah is attending the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, pursuing a dual major in regular and special early childhood education. She is still working with Waterford’s National Honor Society to finish Project: Play it Foward, which is raising money to build an inclusive playground.

For Hannah, receiving the Character Award was “such a humbling experience.” She was thrilled to share her passion projects in which she has invested years of her time. She hopes to keep connecting with her community and to one day volunteer abroad.

We asked Hannah if she had advice for anyone who is currently finishing high school. She said, “You have to be willing to put yourself out there and push yourself past your comfort zone. If I learned anything in my high school years, it’s that being uncomfortable and scared is the only way to find out where you’re supposed to be in this big, mysterious world.”

Thanks for your kind heart and incredible leadership, Hannah! We know that you’ll continue to do great things in this world.


Special thanks to Scott and Linda Haag for making this award possible!

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