Sarah DeVan ’09 is her family’s second-generation Shorewoman—her mother, Sandy Green DeVan ’78, and two aunts, Barbara Green Kurgansky and Tracy DeVan Wolf ’77, also attended WC—but Sarah wasn’t drawn to the school just because of the family connection.
A human development major, Sarah chose Washington College because she felt it would give her the best preparation for a career in education.
“They send you into the schools really early here—freshman year for elementary education students,” she said.
During her field experience at Garnett Elementary School in Chestertown, Sarah observed a gap in the academic achievements of students of different races, motivating her to minor in black studies to gain a better understanding of the discrepancy and to research solutions.
In the spring of 2008, Sarah received a Frederick Douglass Fellowship grant, an award funding student research in the area of African-American studies.
“I wanted to connect the black studies minor and human development major. I was hoping to have learned about the minority achievement gap in the classroom and I hadn’t yet,” she said.
For her project, Sarah evaluated standardized test scores from Maryland, Kent County, and Garnett Elementary School. She also compared early reading experiences and family life and studied some programs that have shown success in closing the achievement gap.
“I really enjoyed reading when I was growing up, exploring the world through books and, as a future educator, I thought it was such a shame that not all students felt the same love of reading,” she explained.
Sarah received a grant from the College’s Society of Junior Fellows to continue her research the following summer with a project called “‘Reading Together’: A Pilot Program to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap.”
As part of the project, Sarah tutored African-American students, identified by local reading specialists, who were performing below grade level.
“The education program at Washington College has prepared me to earn my master’s degree as a reading specialist so I can help struggling readers and impact the achievement gap in the classroom,” she said.
Before beginning her career in the classroom, Sarah traveled to Boston, Orlando and Washington, D.C. to attend several conferences as the Student Vice-President of Pi Lambda Theta International.
Sarah, who served as president of the WC chapter of the honor society for education studies, was appointed the undergraduate representative for the organization for her senior year.
After graduation, Sarah returned to Harford County, Md., where she grew up, to teach fifth grade. She’s also pursuing graduate studies in Education Leadership and Administration.
“I feel really grateful to have the opportunities I’ve had at Washington College.” she said. “I’m doing exactly what I dreamed I’d do and loving it!