Before attending her first class at Carleton College, Rachel Gallagher knew she wanted to supplement her college career by volunteering with individuals who have special needs. Inspired by a friend from high school who had autism and an aunt who worked in the Philippines with children who have special needs, Rachel researched offerings through Carleton’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE), and then signed up with Laura Baker Services Association’s College Buddies program.
It was through College Buddies that Rachel met Glenn during first semester of her freshman year. Since that time, she and Glenn have developed a strong connection. “Visiting Glenn at the house gives me perspective that there is life beyond campus and being a student,” she says. “I enjoy getting to interact with Glenn and the other residents and staff there.” Rachel has had many fond memories of her experiences at LBSA over the years. One of her favorite moments has been Wii® bowling with Glenn. “Watching him be so happy – it’s the small moments that are most inspiring.”
When asked about Rachel, Glenn says, “She likes me. She comes to see me. She makes me laugh.” The staff at Prairie House have appreciated Rachel’s dedication to the College Buddies program and the consistency of her visits. She’s dependable, responsible and able to think on her feet if an issue arises.
Rachel’s interest and experience working with people who have developmental disabilities was the inspiration for a comprehensive research project she completed for her sociology and anthropology major. Her project, titled “Hopes, Dreams but No Plans: Aging Parents of Individuals With Intellectual and Development Disabilities,” was the culmination of 14 interviews of parents of people with special needs. The topic was created by Rachel’s advisor, Professor Annette Nierobisz of Carleton College, who plans to expand this pilot study in the near future. Reflecting on her conversations with parents, Rachel says, “What they do is inspiring, and they have very little support. It’s heartbreaking. It becomes hard for them to plan for the future.”
As her college career winds down, Rachel is considering taking a year or two off and working for an organization like LBSA and then going on to medical school. Although the exact career path for Rachel is undefined, one certainty is that she plans to work with people with special needs in some capacity. She says, “The more I’ve worked in the field, the more I realize I have always been drawn to people who may see the world differently.”
LBSA has benefited greatly from Rachel’s contributions over the last four years!