Hi everyone, Science Cheerleader Hilary here to give you an update on Sarah, a child and adolescent therapist who cheered for the Chesapeake Bayhawks, the Baltimore Blast, and the Baltimore Brigade! Sarah cheered on young girls at a local Science Fair at their school in Washington, D.C. this past Saturday. Interested in having Science Cheerleaders at your event? Request an appearance here!
Read on below to hear what Sarah has been up to since we first met her in 2015!
What turned you on to STEM and when? I have always known that I wanted to make a difference in the world, but I was not sure how. My father created FlavoRx, a type of flavored medicine to help severely sick children function on a daily basis, by being able to take their medicine. He inspired me to make a change in the world, especially in the STEM field. After pursuing my undergraduate degree (in a non-STEM field), I realized that my career path was heading towards science when I started working at the American Heart Association (AHA). I helped start a program in 2011 called Recess Baltimore, to better enhance the lives of inner-city youths and teach them to become advocates for healthy living. This is an 8-month program that incorporates a curriculum of heart-healthy activities and nutrition lessons. We work with about 250 children in their recreation centers to teach them a curriculum of 10 lessons. We test the children’s knowledge at the beginning of the program and at the end of the program. The program is still around to this day! I ended up leaving the AHA in 2013 to pursue my Master of Science degree for another passion of mine, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, to make a direct impact on clients of mine through talk therapy.
What is your day job like? I am a Child and Adolescent Therapist, and am able to work in four different Baltimore County Schools. I work with middle school and high school clients, helping them to feel more comfortable in their own skin and to how learn to cope better with situations that they are facing. After my day of seeing clients at school, I head to our mental health clinic and see clients there!
Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader? Since I was 10 years old on my first recreation league cheerleading squad, I have always known that I wanted to be a professional cheerleader. I would watch the professional cheerleaders at sporting events, and tell my parents that one day, that would be me. After I graduated from college, I wanted to be around like-minded women who care about cheerleading as much as I do, and I wanted to become part of the performing and cheering sisterhood.
What does it mean for you to work in STEM? Working in STEM is extremely powerful to me because I know that through my work I am inspiring other women to pursue their dreams. It is important to me because there are fewer women in STEM careers, and I want to keep empowering women never to doubt themselves despite what they want to study and work in. My work is important because it helps my clients believe in themselves, feel like they have an opportunity to be heard, and have a nonjudgmental outlet to discuss life’s issues. I see myself making a better world by helping improve one person’s issues, one client at a time!
How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your career? I love performing and being in front of a crowd, and I get the same feeling with my career. Even though I am only in front of my clients and sometimes their families when I am counseling, I know at the end of the day I counseled to the best of my ability and was proud of my time with them. I am also a very positive person and teammate. Having a positive outlook helps immensely when working with my clients because at times their stories are not the easiest to handle, but they are looking to me for guidance and I want to provide that to them in a positive and nonjudgmental manner.
How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders? I feel as if I am a stereotype-breaker as a professional cheerleader who works in STEM. When fans ask me what I do, I get really excited to tell them that I am a therapist and have completed my Masters degree. I have had numerous instances when the fan blankly stares at me, and other times when they tell me how impressed they are. However, I didn’t want to get an advanced degree because I wanted to impress people, I wanted to do it because I knew that it would allow me to make the biggest impact on my clients. After I explain to fans what I do, I make sure to say that from a young age I wanted to help people, and now I get to do that every day!
Best cheerleading experience? I am so thankful for all of the experiences I have had on each team that I have been on. However, one of the best cheerleading experiences I have had was becoming one of the inaugural Baltimore Brigade Dancers. It was an honor to be on the first dance team for Baltimore’s Arena football league!
Best STEM-related experience? The best STEM-related experience I have had was crossing the stage when I obtained my Master of Science diploma at graduation! Although, I have had many rewarding STEM-related experiences in my fieldwork leading up to obtaining my degree and after, I believe actually receiving my diploma was the best culmination feeling of all of my hard work!
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self? I would give my 12-year-old self the same advice my father gave to me: persist, persist, persist! Don’t let not being able to do something on your first try deter you from trying again!
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you? I started the “I am ABLE” wristband of hope when I was 16 years old. My younger sister Hadley has cerebral palsy and I used to hate when people would make fun of her for being in a wheelchair and being different. Instead of getting angry, I created the bright orange, jelly-like wristbands to get my message across to people. One on side of the band it said “I am ABLE,” and on the other side, it said “SK. HK” for my maiden name initials and my sisters initials because I created the wristbands for her. The meaning of “I am ABLE” is that everyone is ABLE to spread awareness about discrimination against the disabled, and also to treat people equally regardless of how they might look or speak. I was able to speak all over the United States on behalf of my wristbands, and all of the money I raised went to a non-profit organization called Shane’s Inspiration, which creates specialized playgrounds so able-bodied children and disabled children can play together.