Early in her first year of college, Sarah Honigfeld was named president of Northeastern’s Deaf Club. She didn’t get the position because of her leadership qualities or group vision, though she brought both to the job.
“The bylaws said the president had to be deaf and I was the only deaf student,” said Honigfeld, now a fifth-year human services major in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. “It sort of happened by default.”
Under Honigfeld’s leadership, the group became the Interpreting Club, a student-based organization that gives participants a chance to discuss topics ranging from American Sign Language to deaf culture.
“We opened up the club to ASL students, students with deaf parents, or even those who want to learn more about these topics,” said Honigfeld, who wears two hearing aids but relies primarily on lip reading to communicate. “It made it so it was more inclusive.”
Inclusion has been Honigfeld’s prime focus at Northeastern, most notably through her work at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club, where she helped build an inclusion initiative from scratch. As both a co-op student and staff member, she has led efforts to include disabled children in youth programming and recruit more members whose disability might otherwise keep them from participating.
“A lot of children with disabilities will wind up staying at home and I want to change that,” Honigfeld said. “I want to do everything I can so that they’re having fun with other kids and feel included. If you’re not having fun, you can feel terribly alone.”
Honigfeld also works as an intern at Boston Children’s Hospital, designing individualized education plans for disabled children and finding support services for families.
“Our goal is to help families support their children in achieving their developmental milestones,” she said.
Her humanitarian work has not gone unnoticed: Last month the Boston Globe named her one of its Champions of Diversity. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has also named her a Eunice Shishmanian Fellow, which includes a year of funding for post-graduation early-intervention work.
“I’m already doing the kind of work I want to spend my career doing,” Honigfeld said. “This early-intervention work allows me to make sure all kids are included and can grow while having a lot of fun.”
– by Matt Collette