She began her work with nonprofits in fifth grade, when she was cast as Pepper in the musical, “Annie.” Dancing around in the audition room as an enthusiastic 10-year-old, singing “Bet On It,” from “High School Musical,” sophomore Brianna Paganini began a lifelong cycle of giving back to those who have given her everything.
Kids for Kids, the nonprofit theatre group directly funded towards children suffering from cancer, catalyzed Brianna’s love for artfully presenting herself within situations where her personal growth flourished in various fields. “I found a passion for not only theatre but for giving back. It was just amazing to me, even as a child,” she said. “I was performing and growing as a human, always with the biggest smile on my face.”
With deep-rooted enthusiasm, Brianna has established herself as a multifaceted student-leader, utilizing her drive to give back to further flourish every community that she is a part of.
As a sophomore studying communications in public relations and advertising with a theatre minor, Brianna carries an array of campus positions—member of the Honors Program, Ambassadors, Relay for Life, North Road Communications, MCCTA member and theatre scholarship recipient, Vice President of Organization for Kappa Kappa Gamma, and former Class of 2019 president.
Her undying smile on the stage and her overall persona on campus has defined her identity as a multifaceted individual, spreading her interests, but always focusing in on the most important aspect of her life—service.
As a public relations student, Brianna holds a passion for making a tangible difference through her own communication skills, with her first assignment last semester in brand profiling for a music therapy business for communities in need. “Even though it was just for a class, I still was so engaged. I wanted to do well and to do a good job for them.”
Brianna also works as a campus tour guide, where she is able to combine her passions for public speaking and promotion, with her charitable nature infiltrating into every aspect of her life. “It’s really awesome to work with admissions because it gives me the opportunity to give back to a community that has given me so much already.”
Her personal light is built upon her genuine reverence to the communities in which she has been part of, sparking her innate desire to recycle her experiences to be encountered by others. “To be able to give back and highlight all of the strengths and the amazing opportunities that I have been presented to prospective students is so important to me.”
As a high school senior, Brianna was chosen to represent her hometown at the Lead for Diversity Conference, a week-long program for students in New York and New Jersey in the Poconos, Pennsylvania, addressing diversity awareness and human rights education.
“I always thought that I was very open-minded, but when I went, it opened my eyes to a world that I did not know existed,” she said, stressing the vitality of engaging outside of her hometown in Howell, New Jersey.
Through late-night seminars teaching about the roots of prejudice and uncomfortable distance between one another’s life experiences, the Lead for Diversity candidates are forced to better prepare themselves to face conversation in large social topics. “Senior year Brianna never understood what privilege was,” she said. “I was speechless--I always have things to say and I really didn’t have anything to say.”
Brianna earned a position as an LFD counselor for the following summer, where she mentored the high school students and facilitated the same activities that she actively kept a journal about throughout her week-long experience the summer prior. “I was able to get on the other side, and I fell in love with it.”
Between her wholesome passion for helping others and gaining utmost insight into lives different than her own, Brianna constantly strives to achieve the greatest possible sense of empathy through her work. “I think it is very easy to call yourself an ally, and people throw that word around like it is nothing--you need to earn the title of allyship.”
Her leadership positions throughout both her high school and higher education experiences have significantly increased her skill in facilitating healthy conversations in sensitive topics. “By going through this process in learning about these topics that are uncomfortable to handle, I want to educate others on it and make myself more aware,” she said. “It puts me in a closer step to be an ally and to be a voice for the voiceless.”
Brianna strives to use her skill in communications and public relations to truly understand and make an impact on each community that she belongs to, helping members to “understand the importance of conversation and understanding each other, and using their privilege to help others.”
“My way of trying to give back is to use the lessons that I have learned to inform the ones I love around me to open their eyes to something that I have experienced, which is why I continue to do the work that I do.”
Brianna’s uplifting nature was left with Howell High School through her annual, school-wide telecasted presentation for Autism Awareness.
During her senior year, she organized and executed an Autism Awareness action plan, “Pledge to End the ‘R Word,’” receiving over 1000 signatures and her personal presentation on the topic. “To leave and implement something in my high school is where everything came full circle to me,” she said.
“If I am not doing something to help others, I am not getting fulfillment,” she said. She continues to include nonprofit work into multiple sectors of her life, as she reads to underprivileged children in the Hudson Valley area with her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma.
Brianna’s deep appreciation for her family catalyzes her consistent drive to recycle selflessness throughout her lifetime. “They have given me everything in my life,” she said, as they traveled from their New Jersey suburb to see her perform every night of MCCTA’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, where she played Hermia. “They are so invested in making sure that I feel loved and supported—and I think that with support and unconditional love, anything is possible.”
Brianna has utilized her passions for both strategic communications and the arts in order to facilitate conversation and raise awareness of the topics that she has based her lifetime’s work around thus far. “There is something bigger than yourself, and it is up to you to go and find it,” she said, bearing her bright smile and her genuinely inherent humility.