Sarah Honigfeld has been speaking out for people with disabilities since she was a Girl Scout urging Connecticut legislators to support a bill to put closed captioning in movie theaters.
Honigfeld, who was born deaf and is now a 22-year-old student majoring in human services at Northeastern University, is still working to make the world a more inclusive place. She transformed Northeastern’s deaf club into a sign language club that includes people who can hear. She talks to Brookline elementary school students about what it’s like to be deaf, telling them, “I’m just like you guys. . . . I like football. I like purple. I like cats.” And she recently went to India for three weeks to help deaf college students learn how to get along in a hearing world.
But Honigfeld doesn’t limit her efforts to the deaf community. After seeing children with Down syndrome and autism struggle to make friends while she was a cooperative education student at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club, she helped develop several social skills groups pairing disabled students with their nondisabled peers.
What she found at the club, where she now works part time, was that the children with learning disabilities and social anxieties started contributing to group activities for the first time. And the nondisabled kids, including a group of “troublemakers” who had a reputation for being disrespectful, became much more helpful and friendly.
“It was like a place for them to practice being friends,” she says.
Honigfeld, who also works with families of children with disabilities through an internship at Boston Children’s Hospital, hopes to pursue a career in early intervention — and continue to find ways to establish common ground for people of all ability levels.
Jessie Kandel, who oversees Honigfeld at the Boys and Girls Club, says that bringing people together comes naturally to Honigfeld. “Inclusion is something that she’s completely passionate about.”
— Katie Johnston