HESP Senior Shares How Hardship Inspired Her to Double Down on Her Career Goals
Rachel Horan always knew that, one way or another, she’d pursue a career that allowed her to work with kids.
Part of that early inspiration came from the Robbinsville, New Jersey native and senior hearing and speech sciences major’s experience as the oldest of five siblings.
“I would be the guest reader in all of my siblings' classrooms, and I thought it was so cool that my mom would take me out of school to go read to kids at daycare,” Horan said.
As a pre-teen, she became involved in programs such as Safety Town, where police officers taught kindergarteners safety rules before they started school. It was in one of those program sessions that Horan first worked alongside a child who was neurodivergent and nonverbal, and was able to observe the difference that speech pathologists and special education teachers can make.
Despite describing the experience as a “challenge,” Horan loved it; so much so that it sparked in her the desire to learn more about hearing and speech sciences.
“It was the coolest experience to develop a connection with someone who couldn't communicate verbally, because prior to that, that was all that I had ever been exposed to,” she recalled.
Since arriving at the University of Maryland, Horan has been actively involved in multiple Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences organizations, like LEAP, a language learning early advantage program in College Park that works primarily with children; UMD’s chapter of the National Student Speech and Hearing Association (UMD NSSLHA); and the Cultural Leadership Initiative Student Organization (CLISO), which was designed to help future speech-language pathologists and audiologists achieve the highest level of multicultural competence. She is also a member of the Kappa Delta sorority.
But, Horan’s undergraduate experience wasn’t without its tragedies. In April 2022, her father unexpectedly passed away, forcing her to abruptly restructure her entire academic career for that year.
“I had to learn that things don’t always happen according to a rubric,” she said. “I think the experience gave me a bit of insight into life, to being more accommodating not only to others, but also to myself … and to know that it's OK to ask for help.”
The rest of her sophomore year saw Horan home, where she finished her school work remotely with help from her academic advisor, Stephanie Grissom.
Grissom praises Horan for her commitment to being there for her family and remaining on top of her schoolwork.
“Rachel’s ability to still have a passion for her studies and her future goals was beyond impeccable,” Grissom said. “Through that experience, I saw a level of strength in her as a student and person that has left and will leave an impact even after she graduates.”
Grissom helped Horan realize that she had fewer credits left to take than she initially thought, meaning that she will be graduating this coming December—an entire semester early.
After graduation, Horan will be returning to a multidisciplinary clinic she worked at over the summer in New Jersey, gaining hands-on experience meeting children's speech, occupational, and physical therapy needs with the goal of eventually becoming a speech pathologist.
Horan’s father’s passing could have been an understandable setback for her academic career. Instead, the experience of others coming to her aid during that challenging time has only reinvigorated her wish to help those who are less advantaged and make a difference in the lives of others.
“I want to make myself, and my dad, proud,” she said.
Published on Mon, Oct 30, 2023 - 4:15PM