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Margaret Whitney

Working with the Disabled

What do you want to do when you graduate high school? Do you want to travel, go to college, get a job, or join the military? Well, this Spotlight seems to know exactly what she wants to do and she's working hard to get there. Margaret Whitney dreams of going to medical school, working with the disabled, and using her love of horses to reach out to others. Read about how this young woman is doing what it takes to succeed as a college student!

Name: Margaret Whitney
Age: 20
Home Town: Takoma Park, Maryland

What year are you in school and which school do you attend?

I am in my second year of college at Saint Edwards University in Austin, Texas and I absolutely love it here.

Do you have a role model? If so, who is it?

My aunt Chris is my role model because she gives a lot to other people. There are many ways that a person can give to others and she gives in many ways-- such as with time, money, and her expertise as a doctor.

What do you consider to be your biggest success?

Loving college, especially the activities outside of class. Involvement in clubs and other organizations is the fun part because you get to meet people and do things you may not have time to do once you start your career. Academy of Science is one of my favorites because we go camping every semester.

What message would you like to give girls about overcoming obstacles and adversity?

I’ve always heard that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Most obstacles you face probably aren’t going to cost you your life so you may as well just try hard and trust that everything works out eventually. Most things will.

How many hours a week do you spend time studying and working with the disabled? When do you fit in time for your own health?

I spend about 10 hours a week working as a TA [a teacher’s assistant] for biology students, and at least that many hours studying. I also like to swim, which is why I love the weather in Austin, TX. You can still swim in November. As of right now I spend about 2 hours a week working at a middle school with children with special needs.

How did you become interested in working with disabled children?

It really happened by accident when I was volunteering to work at Rock Creek Park Horse Center, the barn where I used to ride horses when I was younger. They needed an extra hand with a child with Cerebral Palsy so I went on a ride with them. I’ve been doing it ever since.

What sorts of things do you do now with the disabled?

Right now I am starting a mentoring program at Fulmore Middle School here in Austin where college students volunteer in inclusion classrooms. Inclusion classrooms are classes where the special education students learn alongside children who attend the regular school program. I volunteer two hours a week right now, but I am soon going to be spending closer to 10 hours a week there.

What do you think you want to do after you graduate college and medical school?

Aside from being a doctor and working with patients, I want to have a family and have horses at my house. I also really want to do Doctors Without Borders so I can travel and learn first hand about medicine in other countries.

Out of all of the work you’ve done, both for profit and non-profit, what is the most memorable or the most rewarding?

There are two that really stand out. Working at Children’s Association for Maximum Potential (CAMP), which is a summer camp for people with disabilities in the Texas hill country. At CAMP I was working with people with disabilities who were my own age. That had a big impact on me because we could relate to each other a lot and it was very humbling. The second is working in the Office on Disability at HHS. I have never felt so much support from a group of people. They really make me feel like I can do anything I want to.

Margaret Whitney with her horseHow has your love of horses been involved with your volunteer work?

Horses are very useful tools when working with people because most people are naturally drawn to animals. Loving an animal creates a bridge between people of all ages and can make therapy for a child a really fun activity. A lot of times children do not realize that what they are doing with a horse is therapeutic because they are having so much fun. Caring for the horse helps kids stay focused because it allows them to take attention away from themselves and it is also a very athletic activity, which is where the physical therapy component comes in.

What advice would you give young girls who are considering a career with disabled people or with medicine?

Start getting involved with related activities and volunteer while you still can. It’s a lot of fun if you get into the activity and get to know the people you are working with. I still keep in touch with a lot of the kids I used to work with. If you’re interested in medicine, make sure you spend some time at a hospital so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

What is the best advice you would give young girls about what they can do now to prepare for their future?

Even if you don’t know what you want to do you should get involved in activities that interest you. The only way to find out what you like is to try new things.

Content last reviewed July 01, 2005
Page last updated July 01, 2005

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.