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Middle Grades Education Major Helena Boehling ’21: ‘I Knew I Wanted to be Like My Teachers and Pay Forward the Kindness I Was Gifted’

Helena Boehling

Middle grades education major Helena Boehling ’21 loves people, music and art. When she isn’t studying, she spends her time delving into those passions as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, artist and volunteer.

You can find her on stage during open mic nights at Lucky Tree Café, where she also works part time. “I love all types of music and enjoy the world more to a tune,” she said.

You can find her using mix media and scraps to make colorful art pieces as a visual artist — an interest she picked up from her father.

And you can find her interacting with and serving all kinds of people. She has worked in the food service industry since she was 16. “I love the ability to interact with a multitude of people that I would never have known if I did not serve,” she said. “I love learning from new clients and forming relationships with my community.”

People often don’t discover their passion until someone introduces them to the topic or gives them the freedom to explore different interests, she says. For her, it was her family and teachers who gave her support to discover her passions. Now, she wants to inspire others.

“I chose teaching over any other interest to pursue because what brings me the most joy is spreading joy,” she said.

As a Raleigh native and one of nine children, Boehling chose the NC State College of Education because she is able to pursue her dream of being an educator while staying close to home.

“I had amazing teachers in middle school who inspired me and saw me in a way I never had seen myself,” Boehling said. “I knew I wanted to be like my teachers and pay forward the kindness I was gifted.”

As the seventh of nine children, Boehling has had to support herself financially. Being the recipient of the Chuck W. and Nadine P. Edwards Excellence Scholarship for the past two years and the Replogle Family Scholarship during her freshman year has helped ease the financial stress for Boehling. These scholarships have allowed her to attend NC State on her own and “receive the education I can pay forward to my students in the future.”

“I have been able to work part time and still afford class, and I have time to excel in my studies and maintain good academic standing as a great deal of the financial burden is being carried by my generous scholarship donors,” Boehling said.

Having to work only one part-time job has allowed Boehling to get involved on campus and in her community. As someone who “wants to live her life serving youth,” Boehling has found ways to serve on campus, within the NC State College of Education and overseas.

As a freshman, she served in Students Advocating for Youth (SAY) Village. Last year, she worked as a research assistant for Fostering Advocacy, Communication, Empowerment, and Supports for African American Families of Children with Autism, or FACES, a program led by Jamie Pearson, Ph.D., assistant professor of special education.

“This experience helped me to understand a little more personally that education is not always everyone’s priority and it makes me more motivated to work harder to serve the needs of those who are often overlooked or not prioritized,” Boehling said.

Boehling, who is pursuing a Spanish minor, also volunteers with Voluntarios Ahora en Raleigh (VOLAR), a Spanish translation service for the local community. This past July, she traveled to Villa Salvador, Peru, where she served in a foster home run by Community Cenacolo. It was her first time outside of the United States and it was a life-changing experience.

“I had a stark realization of what exists outside of the U.S. borders. I was so grateful to learn and sacrifice for each child,” she said. “The smiles on the faces of the children and immense patience, kindness and sacrifice of the nuns who ran the home inspires me to devote my life to the well-being of our future generations. Each child is the embodiment of hope and I want to spend my whole life nurturing and growing that hope.”

Growing up with friends who spoke Spanish, wanting to communicate in a different way and the beauty of the language are what sparked Boehling’s interest in Spanish.

“I want to improve my language skills enough to potentially teach Spanish,” Boehling said. “I want to be able to use this language as a tool to connect and understand students who are bilingual in the future and as a resource to communicate with students and families.”

When Boehling graduates from NC State, she plans to teach for a couple of years in a North Carolina public school with the most need before returning to school to get a master’s degree in special education.

“I have a strong calling to work with groups with developmental disabilities and advocate for more outreach, resources and instruction to aid these groups,” she said.

As an educator, Boehling wants to connect with people about their passions — to make her classroom a place where students learn about and discover their interests.

“I want to help my future students find something, anything, they are passionate about and foster the confidence and capabilities necessary for success in whatever they choose to pursue,” Boehling says. “Nothing could fulfill me the way learning and teaching can. And what a blessing to fill my day with the youth of tomorrow — full of curiosity, life and hope.”