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Meeting New Altmans: Ayanna Hill

July 20, 2021 5:30 PM

Ayanna Hill of the 2025 Cohort

Incoming Altman Scholar Ayanna Hill joins us this fall already having built an organization from the ground up. She is the founder of Resting on the Word (ROTW), an organization that creates pillows for the unhoused population within her community.

Ayanna came up with the idea when she was just 11 years old. As she and her mother would drive past shelters, at times she would see people who were unable to enter the shelters sleeping on the street. She says, “These experiences struck a chord with me and I talked with my mom if there were any potential solutions to the problems they faced. I wanted to bring them comfort and so my first idea was that instead of sleeping under street signs we could create something to give to them. We settled on pillows as our way to bring comfort, but my mother knew that to simply bring them comfort wouldn’t be enough. My mom then brought up the idea of printing scriptures on the pillows to not only bring about comfort, but also a spiritual anchor for those who were experiencing a difficult time.” 

Ayanna and her mom enlisted the help of her community to make ROTW a reality. Local church leaders donated fabric and materials, community leaders gave her a platform to spread the word about the project, and community volunteers devoted their time to making the pillows. The pillows are hand-sewn and hand-stuffed, and patches with handwritten scripture passages are ironed on each one. Ayanna partnered with a local Mission to distribute the pillows directly to those who needed them most. You can see photos of how Resting on the Word got started on Instagram: @resting_on_the_word

It took time to get ROTW established, but the project hit the ground running when Ayanna was 13. The organization was formally established in the spring of her 8th grade year in conjunction with Global Youth Service Day. They have been creating and distributing pillows ever since. While she will have to take a hiatus when she comes to campus, Ayanna hopes to coordinate small volunteer events when she can.

Starting ROTW has been a learning experience for Ayanna. “Through my experience with Resting On The Word, I have grown to be able to find my strength in leadership and service. When I began this journey I was young, but constantly surrounded by the support that allowed me to learn and establish myself as a leader within my project and amongst my peers.”