• Emily Hunter

Catherine O'Hara: From Actress to Special Educator

As a freshman in college, Catherine O'Hara, thought she wanted to be an actress. She spent a year studying as an acting major, but then a summer home changed everything.

Catherine, now a junior in the Special Education (SPED) program at BYU, said that her career path changed after working at an adult daycare in Colorado. She said, "our motto is 'a meaningful day for a meaningful life.' From day one I had such a love for everyone there. A month and 50 best friends later I switched my major and I'm so glad I did."

Since switching her major, Catherine has been a wonderful addition to the Special Education major! She is well-known and loved by her cohort and she was just nominated as the President of the Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC) for the 2020-2021 school year. She is excited to start organizing the events next year, starting with NSO. When asked about her thoughts on being the upcoming President of SCEC, Catherine shared that she loves the team she is working with and she "really [hopes] that we can bring awareness and normalize people with disabilities around campus and in the community."

Catherine is a firm believer that every individual with disabilities just needs someone to believe in them! This belief has led her to study with a severe emphasis in SPED. She said that students with severe disabilities have "the capacity to learn, they just need the right instruction and a few people dedicated enough to give that to them."

"I don't think people with severe disabilities are given enough credit in learning environments, so I want to be that person who believes in them."

If you are interested in also majoring in Special Education, Catherine suggests that you take an introductory class (CPSE 203) to see if this might be your niche! She says that even if you do not end up going into SPED, you can still get involved with opportunities around campus and in the community. In fact, Catherine herself started with the adaptive show choir on campus, and there are many more organizations that will give you the opportunity to work with individuals with disabilities.

"I've gained so much more purpose and joy in my life learning alongside the incredible students and professors in the major. Every class period is positive and centered around giving equity to typically marginalized students."

Catherine is looking forward to traveling abroad to countries with less established SPED programs and help improve the practices there. She hopes to help them "improve their quality of life and continue to normalize disabilities globally." She feels that her time at BYU in the McKay School of Education is truly preparing her for this journey ahead. To close, here is what Catherine O'Hara, former actress, future educator, and devoted special education advocate has to say about her learning experience as a BYU SPED major.

"At BYU, we really emphasize the divine worth of these individuals. I see everyone with a disability as a son or daughter of God, and I want to make sure they know how valued they are. I'm infinitely grateful that I stumbled upon this profession, because not only do I get to give them opportunities that others may not, but I've seen so much kindness, love, and compassion within these individuals that have really touched my life."

Find more student spotlights and other information on the McKay School of Education by following our blog!

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