Natalia Hazelwood came to Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) at the age of 16 longing for normalcy and stability. In the decade since, her journey has led her to now be a voice and advocate for other at-risk youth.
Hazelwood began her journey at the age of 2 through several foster placements. By the age of 10 she had experienced the hopefulness of being adopted, only to be removed due to neglect years later.
“I have seen and experienced injustices in my own life,” said Hazelwood. “I always knew I wanted to help people but as I got older I began to see injustices more outside of myself and I wanted to help make a difference in the world.”
After moving through several foster homes, Hazelwood was placed at MCH.
Hazelwood was determined to take full advantage of her opportunities at MCH. She was involved in high school activities as well as taking part in the MCH choir, mission trips, and the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. She also was an MCH Ambassador, a group of MCH youth selected to share in churches their experiences at MCH and their personal testimonies.
“MCH does a good job creating a family environment,” she said. “I came to MCH where people loved and supported me. I was able to do normal kid things like make friends, go on trips, and get a job and a driver’s license.”
But it was through the MCH Ambassadors that she learned she had a powerful story to tell.
“MCH gave me a voice,” said Hazelwood. “They saw greatness in me and nurtured it. Traveling and speaking helped me start healing and I wanted that for others. These are the things that carry me through today.”
Hazelwood and her husband Daniel live in Spring, Texas, with their 3-year-old daughter.
Last fall Hazelwood completed her coursework at Lone Star Community College in The Woodlands, Texas, maintaining a 3.9 grade point average. She was the vice president of Student Government and also in the Honors College and made the President’s List. In the fall of 2016 she was selected to be on a panel at the Democratic Commitment Conference at the New York Times. She spoke about her involvement with the Center of Civic Engagement and Campus Vote Project which helps students get engaged in the election process.
“As a young adult and Christian I thought my avenue to help others would be through missions,” she said, noting opportunities she has had serving with youth organizations in Indonesia and Mexico. “Now I can see I have another avenue and I have seen God’s favor in it.”
Hazelwood has been accepted to Penn State and will complete her online bachelor’s degree in International Relations while remaining an active voice for at-risk youth. In February she attended a rally in Austin, Texas, at the State Capitol hosted by the Texas Network of Youth Services. She shared her story as the first speaker at the rally.
“I am grateful for the second chance MCH gave me,” she said. “My transition services coordinator, Angie Vaughn, is the face of MCH for me now. She keeps up with me and celebrates with me in my successes. When I complete my degree my ultimate goal is to work for the United Nations or the State Department.”
When Hazelwood was asked to share a favorite memory while at MCH, she said, “When I reflect back I remember a time the MCH Ambassadors had the opportunity to speak and Trey Oakley, vice president for development, came up to me and said ‘You did a fantastic job! You could do that for a living one day.’ That encouragement made a huge impact in my life.”