Where are they now? Middlebury Union High School – Harriet Napier, 2008

Middlebury Union High School – Harriet Napier, 2008
Hometown, current residence, age: I grew up in Cornwall; I’m living in Seattle for the summer for a fellowship with the Gates Foundation; I’m 27 years old.
Family: My mother is a professor of English at Middlebury College and my older brother is a filmmaker and editor based out of Park City, Utah. Every summer we try to complete one long-distance hike together — so far, we’ve walked across England from the west to the east coast, summited Peru’s Salkantay peak at 14,000 feet, and completed the Alta Via I trek in Italy’s Dolomites.
What I am up to: I just completed my first year of public health graduate school at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. This summer I will be completing a 12-week fellowship for public health and business school students at the Gates Foundation in Seattle.
How I got to where I am now: I have been passionate about issues of social justice and health equity since an early age. In 2004, I took my first trip to Gaesti, Romania, to volunteer at a small orphanage that I had discovered in my searches online. I fell in love with the people, the place, and the work, and have returned year after year to visit the children — one of whom is my godson, the first baby I held during my visit in 2004, now almost 13 years old. In 2008, I organized a trip to share Romania and these experiences working with underserved populations with a group of fellow MUHS students.
After graduating from MUHS in 2008, I traveled for a semester (returning again to volunteer in Romania, completing an internship with a public health organization in Mexico, and ski instructing at the Snow Bowl) and then started as a “Feb” at Middlebury College. I majored in Anthropology with a minor in Global Health, and graduated with the class of 2012. During my time at Middlebury, I worked with the John Graham Emergency Shelter in Vergennes. That experience was pivotal for me — I met fellow Vermonters to whom I am still indebted, who opened up to me and shared with me so generously their life stories.
After graduating from Middlebury College, I moved to Ollantaytambo, Peru, where I worked as a project manager with the small community health organization, Sacred Valley Health (or Ayni Wasi Salud, the organization’s Quechua name). I returned to the U.S. from Peru to join Partners In Health (PIH), a global health organization based in Boston. When the Ebola epidemic hit West Africa, I moved to Liberia to serve as a community health specialist for PIH. I was based primarily in the underserved southeastern region of the country, working closely with the Ministry of Health in its efforts to rebuild health and social protection systems after the outbreak. I spent over a year working with a team of extraordinary Community Health Workers, who invested themselves in rebuilding trust between communities and the health system post-Ebola, and advocated zealously for the recognition of health as a basic human right.
I left Liberia to begin a Master of Science in Public Health program at Johns Hopkins. I am studying health systems in low- and middle-income countries and intend to dedicate my career to community-oriented primary health care, particularly to the case for long-term investment in Community Health Workers as the strongest and most capable foundation of an effective primary care system.
Adults to whom I can attribute my current success: Many! I would never be where I am today without the people who have shown me the way (right and wrong), challenged me to take risks and pursue new opportunities, and welcomed me home always with open arms. My mother and brother have consistently supported me in pursuing my passion — even when it required my disappearance into unfamiliar parts of the world! My teachers — starting at Cornwall Elementary School, through MUHS, Middlebury College and Johns Hopkins — have exposed me to new ways of thinking and opened countless doors for me. I am particularly beholden to the Community Health Workers with whom I have worked — at 14,000 feet in Peru; in the foothills of the Himalayas; and in war-torn, Ebola-ravaged yet strong and resilient Liberia — who have taught me that being humble, building trust and walking in solidarity with others are prerequisites to making any kind of lasting impact.
How my Vermont roots have influenced who I am today: Calling myself a Vermonter has been one of my greatest privileges in life. I cannot imagine calling any other place home. Though I have lived in many other places, there’s nowhere else where the grass is as green and the air as fresh — or the cheese and maple syrup as good — as it is in Vermont! Serving at my county’s only year-round homeless shelter solidified for me the role I am meant to play in global health. The experience emphasized to me the critical importance of building and fostering resilient and accepting communities, and the need to always pay it back.
My memories of high school: High school high points: Our senior play, “Back to the ’80s,” in which I was casted as one of the nerds; our 2008 trip to support a relocation project in Nicaragua that was supporting families in moving out of Managua’s largest dump; English class. High school low points: My inability to find a sport I was good at; taking the SATs.
My advice for this year’s crop of graduating seniors: Find what you are passionate about and pursue it. Be humble and kind and have a sense of humor. Try to find solidarity with people you feel you are most different from — you may uncover incredible parts of yourself you did not know exist. Keep learning because learning is the greatest privilege we have. 

Share this story:

More News

Bernard D. Kimball, 76, of Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY — Bernard D. Kimball, 76, passed away in Bennington Hospital on Jan. 10, 2023. … (read more)

News Uncategorized

Fresh Air Fund youths returning to county

The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)

Obituaries Uncategorized

Mark A. Nelson of Bristol

BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)

Share this story: