Sarah (Barnett) Meagher, a teacher at Brilla College Prep, knew she wanted to serve when she finished college. She leaned on her previous service experiences and her studies of Catholic philosophy to help her discern her next steps. When a mentor at Creighton University recommended applying to Seton Teaching Fellows, she jumped at the chance. Meagher’s volunteer experiences prepared her to make immediate contributions to the program. They also prepared her for something else: the challenges of making lasting change in a community that lacks the resources it needs to thrive.
“Seton Teaching Fellows is hard. And it doesn’t get easier,” she says. “It gets hard and stays hard. The specific challenges might change from moment to moment, but it’s not going to get easier. But you can get better. That is the only option.”
Meagher’s mindset may be the underlying reason why joining Seton Teaching Fellows was the perfect fit for her. As an educator, being able to persist in the face of difficulty and failure isn’t a recommended qualification. It’s a requirement.
“Failure is going to happen. You’re going to make mistakes,” she continues. “But if you can accept that as an opportunity to learn, then this will be a rewarding experience.”
The challenges of serving children in low-income areas in the United States do not garner the attention in this country that they deserve. One in ten children in a community like the Bronx, where Seton Teaching Fellows serve, experience homelessness during their primary school years. That reality is played out first-hand every day.
“It’s really important to remember that none of the children we serve are at fault for this,” she says. “They didn’t make a wrong choice and cause this. I have been so blessed in my life, so what can I possibly do besides just be someone who can ensure their dignity?”
Still, she knows being persistent and compassionate isn’t enough. The job of educating children in the Bronx requires a complete commitment from the school and the community and a reliance on God’s’ plan.
“The work here needs to be taken seriously,” she says. “And if everyone takes it seriously, if we do our jobs well, our students will be successful. They will be well prepared for high school and college and everything else they need in life and beyond.”
Taking her own words to heart, Meagher recently took over the El Camino after-school faith formation program at Brilla College Prep.
If young people like Meagher continue to serve with Seton Teaching Fellows, the students will be in good hands.
“God calls people to where they are needed. He calls people to serve to their talents. To be themselves in what they do,” she concludes.
Her students would agree that she and her fellow teachers are right where they need to be.