Scholarship named for Hannah Goetz, SHS grad who died at 21

Published 7:31 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Smithfield High School’s National Honor Society chapter has created a scholarship fund named for Hannah Goetz, a former student who at age 21 lost her battle with cystic fibrosis last year.

“It’s a challenge navigating the legalities and intricacies of establishing a scholarship, but we have started fundraising and are committed to this project in the long term,” said teacher Karen Washington, who serves as the society’s faculty sponsor. “At this time, we are prepared to offer a $2000.00 scholarship on a one time basis. However, I am confident that this cause will resonate with the local community and beyond allowing us to extend and increase our award.”

Goetz, who was a student in Washington’s Honors English 11 class, had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 10 in 2012. The genetic disease causes frequent lung infections.

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“We established a teacher/student friendship that lasted beyond graduation,” Washington said. “I followed her heroic battle with cystic fibrosis and deeply mourned her loss.”

The scholarship will be awarded to a senior who has overcome personal adversity and plans to pursue post-secondary education. Faculty members will nominate candidates and the recipient will be chosen by the NHS faculty committee.

“Hannah met every day with joy and grace, which attested to her spirit, her faith, and her family,” Washington said. “I believe that her legacy on this earth is to inspire others to fight for their dreams just as she did.”

Autumn Lemus, a Smithfield High junior assisting with fundraising, said that while she didn’t know Goetz personally, she knew Hannah’s story through Hannah’s uncle, Kevin Goetz, who was principal at Carrollton Elementary from 2012 to 2015 when Lemus attended the school.

In 2017, three Windsor Elementary classes teamed up to host a “Sixty-Five Roses” 5K at Windsor Castle Park in Smithfield, inspired by Hannah’s story and named for a common mispronunciation of the disease by children who have it. In 2019, Hannah and her mother, Holly, traveled on a Caribbean summer cruise to celebrate Hannah’s having earned enough high school credits to graduate a year early. But the then-17-year-old came down with flu-like symptoms shortly after returning home.

When the infection worsened rapidly, Hannah’s doctors at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk hooked her to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, machine to oxygenate her blood and and arranged her transfer to Inova Fairfax Medical Campus in Annandale. At Inova, Hannah’s doctors stopped the infection by removing Hannah’s lungs and tying off the connecting blood vessels – an operation that at the time had been performed only once before in the United States and forced Hannah to the top of the transplant waiting list.

In 2023, Hannah’s condition again took a turn for the worse, and doctors diagnosed her with chronic rejection of her gifted lungs.

People can donate to the scholarship fund at