Lauren Nelson ’09, Special Education Teacher, Harlem Village Academy
It was at the Boys and Girls Club in Lawrence, Mass. that Lauren fell in love with the idea of working with children. During the fall of her freshman year at Merrimack, she was able to volunteer at the organization and was inspired to pursue a career in education.
Following graduation, she went on to pursue a Master’s in Elementary Education close to home, at Wagner College on Staten Island, N.Y.
“My two years at Wagner College was an especially fulfilling time in my life, as I was able to combine two of my passions: serving as the women’s assistant lacrosse coach and working toward a dual degree in Childhood Education & Children with Disabilities.”
Lauren is now a second grade teacher at Harlem Village Academy in Harlem, N.Y. In her role, she identifies students who are in need of academic or behavioral support and creates individualized education programs to help them achieve their goals.
“My unique role at HVA allows me to go beyond the classroom, forging special bonds with students and families that need a little extra love.”
How did your experience at Merrimack help you as a professional?
One of the interesting things you’ll notice walking the halls at HVA is that each classroom is named after a different college/university. That’s because it is our goal as educators to ensure that each student graduates with the opportunity to attend college. More than 92% of HVA’s college seniors enroll in college. It’s not an easy goal, and it takes a collaborative effort from the whole staff. I am fortunate to be able to apply the experiences and leadership skills I learned as part of the Merrimack College lacrosse team to my day-to-day job. Even though it might not be as fun as grinding toward an NE-10 title, it’s a rewarding feeling to be a part of an incredible team working toward a meaningful goal.
What is the best advice you could give current Merrimack students?
Don’t underestimate the Merrimack network. Even though Merrimack is a small New England school, it has an expansive and far-reaching alumni network. A perfect example is my Merrimack roommate, Amanda Gilman ’09. Throughout college she always wanted to work in finance. She was able to leverage her Merrimack connections to get a job at a New York investment bank and is now a high-level Wall Street executive. Living in New York together, we’ve realized there is no shortage of Merrimack graduates who are willing to go the extra mile to help their fellow alumni.
What is your Favorite Merrimack memory?
I have so many great memories, but looking back I am very happy I took advantage of Merrimack’s study abroad program. Living and studying at Bond University in Surfer’s Paradise, Australia for a semester - it doesn’t get any better than that!