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Mason sophomore Katherine Quigley in a classroom

When rising sophomore Katherine Quigley volunteered with Mason's Office of Leadership Education and Development (LEAD), she found her calling. She plans to work in special education and advocate for students with disabilities.

Finding a Career in a Volunteer Opportunity

When Katherine Quigley came to George Mason University as a freshman, she had no concrete plan for her life. But during a year in which she volunteered with the university's Office of Leadership Education and Development (LEAD), Quigley found her calling.

She can even pinpoint the day she decided to work in special education and advocate for students with disabilities.

"How crazy is that?" says the rising sophomore. "It really was a true moment where I realized what my purpose is."

After joining LEAD on the recommendation of dorm mate Taylor Sprague, one of the program's senior leadership consultants, Quigley jumped into a student-led partnership with Godwin Middle School in Woodbridge, Virginia, and participated in five workshops that helped seventh graders learn about communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, and social responsibility.

"For me, it was seeing people who needed someone to believe in them and giving them that. It's important that these kids know their voices will be heard."

Katherine Quigley

With help from Mason's Admissions Office, which donated backpacks full of college information, and Target, which donated $2,000 for supplies, LEAD also put on the InCredAble Leadership Conference in which Mason students worked with 80 Godwin students on leadership skills. A game-filled teen night attracted 125 students.

"I love seeing the kids after they work with the Mason students, how excited they are and how confident they are in themselves," said Mike Nicely, a Godwin assistant principal.

During a team-building exercise in which Godwin students passed a hula hoop around a circle, a female student with a physical disability dropped the hoop. Quigley encouraged her to complete the task without help.

Quigley later asked the student what it means to be a leader. "She looked at me and said, 'Being a good leader is being a friend like you were to me.' "

At that point, Quigley realized her future vocation.