High School Classmates Are Extended Family
Hannah Camenzind and Ryan Fitzpatrick were classmates in the Brevard High School class of 2001. Both received Connestee Fallsscholarships during their senior year. And now they are almost family, as Ryan's sister Katie married Hannah's older brother Roc in 2016. Their paths cross frequently, even though Ryan lives in Washington, D.C., and Hannah has moved back to Brevard.
Born and raised in Brevard, Hannah is happy to be back home. After her graduation from Brevard High, she attended Brevard College with the help of several scholarships, including her Connestee Fallsscholarship and a volleyball scholarship. After two years she transferred to Appalachian State University, graduating in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics. Ryan was born in Florida but visited Transylvania Countyfor the first time when he was three months old. His family visited every year thereafter and moved to Lake Toxaway in 1994. Ryan attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the help of his Connestee Falls scholarship and graduated in 2005 with a degree in Spanish.
An undergraduate course in business law piqued Hannah's interest in the law. After she graduated from college she returned to Brevard where she worked for a year at the law firm of Ramsey and Pratt. She describes developing "a positive view of the practice of law" because of the exceptional people at the firm. That "positive view" contributed to her decision to attend law school, and she enrolled in the School of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2007. For six years after receiving her law degree in 2010 she worked in administration at the law school. Her involvement with administering scholarships, including picking recipients, led her to an even greater appreciation of the staggering debt that many students incur in their pursuit of higher education.
Hannah returned to Brevard for a visit in 2016 and decided it was time to come home to be closer to her family and the mountains. She has strong ties and a lot of family here, and she is a hiker and camper. On her paternal grandmother's side, the Hudgens family has been in the area for generations, while her paternal grandfather moved to Brevard from Switzerland to work at Ecusta. Her maternal grandparents moved from Alabama to work at the plant. Her maternal grandmother Jane Hill still lives in Brevard, as do her parents Bob and Lynda Camenzind, her aunt Poo Cabe, and several cousins. Her older brother Roc, his wife Katie (Fitzpatrick), and their two children live in Mills River; her younger brother Pete is in Wilmington.
Hannah is now an associate at the law firm of Ramsey and Pratt where she handles estate administration, estate planning, and real estate transactions. Last summer she married Jess Bradley, whose sister Addison has been her friend since middle school. Jess, a general contractor whose family has been in this area for eight or nine generations, is now studying at Haywood Community College in Clyde. Hannah expressed appreciation for the scholarship assistance Jess is receiving, as well as for the scholarship assistance she received during her course of study.
Ryan returned to Transylvania County after graduating from UNC and volunteered in the congressional campaign of Heath Shuler, who was el
ected to Congress from the Eleventh District in 2006. The next year Ryan moved to Washington, D.C., to work in the new congressman's office as staff for natural resources; he wanted to help Congressman Shuler protect lands and waters in Western North Carolina.
Though he had no background in environmental issues, his rigorous university education helped him take advantage of the many high-level resources available to people who work in Congress; he noted that absorbing information from experts on Capitol Hill is "like drinking from a fire hose."
He and the congressman were successful in many efforts, from conservation at the Carl Sandberg home to resolving the "North Shore Road" dispute between the Federal Government and Swain County to getting major climate change legislation passed through the House of Representatives. He notes that Shuler's interest in protecting the environment in Western North Carolina had a significant influence on him. The Congressman knew the importance of the environment to the people in this area, not only because of its beauty but also because of its economic impact.
Ryan left the Congressman's office in 2011 to work at a think tank called Third Way. He is now Deputy Director of Clean Energy at the organization, which champions progressive policy ideas that can appeal to voters in the political center. He works to educate policymakers on clean energy technologies and other tools to help fight climate change.
Ryan's mother Kathy Balistreri runs Balistreri Realty in Lake Toxaway, having obtained her real estate license soon after her graduation from college. His father Dean lives in Marietta, Ga., and is mostly retired from the real estate business.
Regarding his Connestee Fallsscholarship, Ryan stated, "The financial assistance was really helpful, but it was also good to know that there was a community of people back home who believed in me enough to invest in my future."