Student Spotlight: Margaret Whitney, '07, Making a Difference One Student at a Time
When Margaret Whitney first arrived at Fulmore Middle School in April 2005 to volunteer with special needs students, she didn't exactly receive a hero's welcome. The counselors and principal were excited that she wanted to volunteer, but finding the extra time to help her get started seemed impossible. Not dismayed by the lackluster introduction, she jumped right into her mission: helping out wherever she could and assessing the students' needs so she could recruit more volunteers.
Every Child Deserves a Good Education
Embodying the mission of St. Edward's, Margaret's service project — the inclusion of the students into mainstream classrooms — is part of a scholarship funded by the Brown Foundation Inc. of Houston. Margaret, a pre-med Biology major from the Washington, D.C., area, is no stranger to volunteer work and helping people, particularly children with disabilities. Through her experiences, she discovered that she wanted to pursue medicine and continue helping people with disabilities.
"Not every child with needs and disabilities is the same," she said. "A child who is in a wheelchair has totally different needs than a child with Down syndrome, yet the current system throws them both into the same category."
Meeting the Challenges Ahead
The service project has also taught Margaret another valuable lesson. As project coordinator and leader, she brings other students from St. Edward's into the middle school to serve as volunteers in classrooms. "Managing those volunteers and trying to pair them up with the right classroom is a challenge," she said. "Most of the teachers are already overworked, and while they are open to having volunteers in the classroom, they don't have the time to hold their hands. If a volunteer isn't very outgoing or doesn't show initiative by jumping right in, it can actually be counterproductive."
But the challenges aren't stopping her. Margaret continues to seek out new volunteers, particularly students from the School of Education who are training to be teachers. She also hopes her project will continue to grow and thrive after she graduates in May 2007 and moves on to medical school. For now, Margaret can enjoy access to the new John Brooks Williams Natural Sciences Center, which formally opened its doors to the St. Edward's community on Sept. 8, 2006.
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