When Julianne Donoghue ’14 arrived at NC State as a freshman, she planned to earn a degree in business administration and work in marketing. She never imagined herself becoming a teacher.
It wasn’t until her junior year that Donoghue began contemplating a career that would afford her a greater sense of purpose. While she learned a great deal from the marketing internships she completed with Sageworks, Inc. and Schneider Electric, she came away from those experiences feeling unfulfilled.
“I felt that I was not leaving an impact as a result of the work I was putting in,” Donoghue said.
Motivated by the well-known proverb, “If you give a man a fish he eats for a day; if you teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime,” Donoghue researched organizations that aligned with her values. It was this philosophy that attracted her to Teach for America, an organization founded on the belief that education is the best way to make a sustainable world. She became a Teach for America corps member after graduation.
When she completed her two-year Teach for America commitment in June 2016, Donoghue decided to continue in her role as an educator. As a complement to her work in the classroom, last summer she shadowed the chief human resources officer for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to gain insight into other aspects of the school system.
“Being a Park Scholar, I learned to step out of my comfort zone and serve as a leader. I also learned the importance of perseverance and integrity,” said Donoghue, who as an undergraduate spent a month volunteering in an orphanage in Gordon’s Bay, South Africa and also received her sorority’s statewide award for outstanding leadership. “As a teacher, I have to call on these experiences to have the confidence to lead my students in my classroom.”
Donoghue teaches mathematics at a Title I high school in Charlotte, where many students come from low-income families and teacher turnover is rampant. She is reminded daily of the barriers her students face, and strives to help them overcome these obstacles by harnessing her students’ potential and encouraging them to push themselves. A highlight in her career thus far has been serving as the advisor for her school’s chapter of National Honor Society.
“When I took over the chapter, they had fewer than ten members. We have grown to over 100 students in just two school years,” Donoghue said. “I get to work alongside some of the best students and help them learn the importance of leadership and character through service projects and school events.”
Having the opportunity to shape young minds is what Donoghue enjoys most about teaching.
“Becoming a teacher is one of the most rewarding and powerful things you can do. You instantly become a mentor, a cheerleader, a life coach, a motivator, and a counselor as soon as you greet your first class,” said Donoghue. “It is truly a privilege to have the responsibility to shape young minds.”
She credits the Park Scholarships program not only for instilling in her the drive to make a lasting difference, but also for immersing her in a community of scholars with diverse interests and backgrounds. Donoghue believes this laid the groundwork for her ability to build strong relationships with her students—one of her most valuable assets as an educator.
“My experience as a Park Scholar helped me to realize my full potential. It helped me to gain a new confidence in my ability and pushed me to strive for my greatest self,” said Donoghue. “It also taught me the importance of giving back to your community. That is what led me to teaching in the first place. I am forever grateful that I was a Park Scholar and will continue to carry those lessons learned throughout my career.”
Story by Claire Slepecki