Teen opera singer working to get to D.C. despite recent financial setback

Local News

VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (WIAT) — A rising senior at Vestavia Hills high school was recently invited to a prestigious summer opera program; however, a recent car crash has taken a toll on her family’s finances.

Elizabeth Hanje, 17, has studied classical vocal techniques for about two years and has won competitions at both the state and regional levels. She told CBS 42 she is one of just 30 students invited to participate in the Washington National Opera’s summer opera institute.

Hanje was recently in a car crash on her way to school and the family car was totaled. Though everyone is physically O.K., Hanje’s mother, Catherine, is an Uber driver and the crash complicated their finances.

Catherine Hanje told CBS 42 she nearly canceled Elizabeth’s enrollment in the summer program since it will cost more than $3,000. 

Elizabeth Hanje turned to Go Fund Me in Dec. 2018 to raise money to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York and her voice coach recently started a new campaign on the crowdfunding site raise money for the summer program in Washington D.C. 

“It makes me feel supported, that I’m not alone in this as I venture out into something that I really want to do: Singing opera and being a classical singer,” Hanje said. “I just want to say thank you for everybody whose been helping me achieve my dream and my goal.”

To cover airfare and other expenses, the Go Fund Me lists a goal of $4,000.

“We really appreciate — every dollar is going to make a difference,” Catherine Hanje said. “It’s not going to make a difference — not just for Hanje family — it’s going to make a difference for Elizabeth’s life because really it’s about Elizabeth to achieve her dream.”

Members of the Vestavia community have helped the family with their car trouble and a family friend, Lee Mathews, told CBS 42 she hopes people will step in to help Elizabeth too. 

“It’s such an all American story of an immigrant family coming from Africa, wanting a better life for their children, making financial sacrifices,” Mathews said. “I just remember her singing in my kitchen one day and telling her mother, you have no idea what the Lord wants to do for Elizabeth.”

As of Friday morning, the Go Fund Me does not yet have any contributions. The program begins June 24.

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