Thursday, April 20, 2005

Tennessee taps Hall for Top 40 Under 40

Staff Writer

Marshall County’s Amy Hall of Cornersville was among 40 young people in the Nashville area listed this year in the Top 40 Under 40, published in the April 3 issue of The Tennessean.

She is the daughter of Pam Cooper Hall and Larry Hall of Cornersville.

The top 40 is picked from young professionals working in Middle Tennessee to recognize them not for their professional achievement but for their commitment to service to others.

The Tennessean recognizes these young men and women for their will to share their good fortune with others. Those chosen are from a diverse group who work for non-profits, institutions, government and business.

Hall is working with the American Red Cross in Nashville, Tenn.

Ole Miss journalism professor Joe Atkins and Potts Camp teacher Irene Strickland are not surprised Hall made the top 40.

Atkins said Amy always stood out as a student in several of his classes as an excellent student and caring person.

“She has a personality that lights up a room - a big smile on her face,” he said.

He described her as having a combination of intelligence and personality that seems to be a person of caring.

“I ran into her father at the Mississippi Press Convention and he’s a proud father. His face was beaming.”

Atkins said Hall “uses her network to remain in touch” with friends in journalism at Ole Miss.

“She’s been one to keep up with us,” he said.

Strickland called Amy Hall Potts Camp’s ambassador. Hall was also chosen as Marshall County’s Miss Hospitality.

She describes her former student as “very, very positive, very polished, very charming and a joy to teach.”

“She made Potts Camp proud,” Strickland said. “She very sweet and very kind-spirited and she always thought of others first.”

Strickland said she is not surprised that Hall was selected for top 40.

“Speaking of her working for Red Cross, it doesn’t really surprise me,” Strickland said. “She’s a strong leader, worked well with other people, is very dependable and a very charitable individual. She always wanted to build people up. She’s very unselfish.”

Hall, 28, was graduated from Ole Miss with a bachelor’s in journalism. She was invited into the honors program, editor of the Ole Miss year book and a member of Delta Gamma sorority.

“I majored in journalism at Ole Miss because I liked the idea of talking with people and learning something new every day,” she said. “I always dreamed of writing for magazines and telling people’s stories, and have been fortunate enough to make that a reality.”

Hall said she was interested in the uplifting aspect of publishing and design, and was not as drawn to newspaper work that often has to deal with the sometimes negative aspects of living.

“I have enormous respect for the important role that the press plays in keeping us informed, but I have always known that I was not designed for newspaper reporting. It was a running joke with my journalism professors.”

Her first job upon graduation was working as a copy editor for Southern Living in Birmingham. She also contributed articles to Southern Living and its sister publications, and continues freelance writing.

After nearly two years an opportunity in Nashville opened up and Hall joined the Nashville Chamber of Commerce as communications manager. Later she joined the Nashville area Red Cross serving as director of communication.

Hall said she was attracted to Nashville’s culture, particularly the creative environment which also includes music.

“This is such a vibrant city, brimming with creativity and genuinely kind people,” she said. “I think the two often go hand in hand.”

She was selected from a field of 220 nominations for the Top 40 Under 40.

“I got to the ceremony and realized that two of my friends were also being honored,” she said. “We call Nashville our ‘big small town.”

Hall discussed what it feels like to be a member of generation x.

“Professionally, we have so many options,” she said. “My main challenge is there are so many different things I would love to do.”

She tries to balance her desire for adventure with the desire for security.

“It’s a struggle sometimes, but you can’t give up on having the best of both worlds,” she said.

Writing, design and working with people are what she is drawn to, for now.

She especially enjoys going out on the scene with Red Cross and meeting families and volunteers.

That has put her into unusual places to meet exciting people.

She was introduced to Florida governor Jeb Bush who came to serve pancakes at a relief shelter following the hurricanes last year. She has also met Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen, and has worked with country music artists and professional athletes on Red Cross events.

“As much as I would like to claim that I have strategically plotted my path, the truth is I’ve been blessed time and again by being in the right place at the right time,” Hall said. “God has provided for me in ways I don’t at all deserve, and I am just beginning to really grasp that. It’s humbling.”

Hall said she was drawn to magazine work because she likes telling positive stories.

“There is beauty in the most common, mundane things, and I love to tap into that,” she said. “My parents raised me to be a realist, so I’m not the complete Pollyanna I might be if left to my own devices. I do have ‘an edge.’ ”

She struggles with balance to keep work a creative adventure and to be at the same time effective.

At Red Cross there is much opportunity for that.

She does all the website design, the branding and marketing, the advertising, all the public relations, and writes the newsletters and speeches.

Red Cross operates a blood bank, provides life saving and first aid training and is there with volunteers when a family’s house burns down.

“We are there to offer a shoulder for people to lean on, a place to stay, money for food, and most important - to help them maintain their dignity during a painful time,” Hall said.

Although she is away from home, its close enough to visit often. Hall said she talks to her parents almost daily.

“It is important to me that I tell people exactly where I’m from, rather than something general like North Mississippi. It’s Potts Camp, Mississippi, always. I’m proud of my home.”

An old saying goes ‘you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.’

Hall said she is connected that way to Cornersville and Potts Camp. She has big family in Marshall County where her mother’s parents family are from and her paternal grandparents are from New Albany, where her dad grew up. Both are big families, she said.

The country is still in the girl.

“Ambition would tell me I should have moved to New York City, if I wanted to have a career in publishing,” she said. “But I need to live in a green place. I grew up daydreaming and decorating mud pies with flowers. At heart I’m still the same girl that I was then, and I get so much of my inspiration and energy from the outdoors.”

While in school at Potts Camp, Hall played basketball and developed a love for running.

“I love running the long distances. It is one thing I’ve managed not to let change,” she said. I don’t do it competitively - it’s therapy.”

She also enjoys reading and contract writing for family genealogies.

“I do the research, interview the family, and put it into prose,” she said. “I paint a picture of their past.”

That again is her attraction to novel projects and is part of her gen X dilemma.

It comes up in conversations with her parents.

“I’m telling them about my next big idea, and they say, ‘Woah’, you’ve got a great thing going now.’ ”

That kind of attraction to adventure is not frowned upon by gen Xers, she said.

“It is expected in creative fields,” she said, “as long as you are moving forward in your career.

“Most of the people I’ve worked with have had several jobs by the time they are 30. So, I see both sides. I feel so blessed to have been given opportunities. You want to take advantage of all of them, but the challenge is to find that balance of adventure and stability. I want both.”

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