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Sadie McCleary

A few months before May 2011 graduation, Sadie McCleary searched for a way to work with and learn from a low-income community before applying to medical school.

“After being involved in APPLES, I wanted to take at a gap year in service because once you go into medical school, that’s four years, then there’s residency, and after that, your career.”

“It’s hard to be a good doctor or teacher if you serve a population you’re outside of or don’t understand.”

Teach for America was the answer.

“UNC is one of the top schools for Teach for America. They knew about my interest through my work in the APPLES and contacted me. I realized that this was an avenue to work with low-income students.”

Teach for America recruits high-achieving college students to teach in low-income areas. With a major in biology and minors in chemistry and in Spanish for medical professionals, McCleary realized that she had a perfect opportunity.

“I was looking for a way to combine science and service. I’ve been interested in health disparities and health equity. There’s an education gap concurrent with health inequities in America.”

So, the Winston-Salem native signed on to teach at Northern Nash High School in Rocky Mount, N.C.

McCleary teaches biology and earth/environmental science. “I’m learning because I’ve had to figure out how to make content accessible in ways that students will understand. It’s been a learning experience.” She exposes students to colleges by having them study a different college each week. And, the students are creating service-learning projects to benefit their school or Rocky Mount. “I’m proud of how they’ve taken ownership of the projects,” she says.

Outside class, she co-coaches the junior varsity cheerleading squad, using her dance experience in choreographing the squad.

Her commitment to Teach for America ends in June 2013.

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