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Humanitarian calling

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

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