“Part of the reason why I chose to study social work is because I care deeply about helping people recognize the greatness in themselves,” says Charlotte McCarthy. “I love hearing people’s stories, and the idea of working toward multidimensional collaborative change and social justice.”

The UVM senior from Dunstable, Massachusetts says that her student experiences sparked new and evolving curiosities while opening her mind to unforeseen research interests. Now she is applying those experiences in her Honors College thesis capstone project involving afterschool programs for at-risk children.

Working as afterschool program staff for the Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes Elementary School during her sophomore and junior years, Charlotte created curriculum, taught classes and coordinated activities for kids throughout the year. 

“I taught classes ranging from storybook crafts to martial arts to Rube Goldberg machine-building classes,” she explains. “The structure of the afterschool program allowed room for me to get creative while delivering high-quality activities to kids who otherwise wouldn't have access due to their socioeconomic circumstances. It was their only source of extracurricular activity outside of school.”

Toward the end of her sophomore year, she realized that she wanted to delve deeper into how the Burlington School District came to design their afterschool programs. Guided by her faculty advisors, Dr. Sean Hurley and Dr. Holly-Lynn Busier, Charlotte designed her research project to explore how afterschool programs in the school district create safe and intuitive environments for children who are at risk for various adverse childhood experiences. Specifically, her project explores how the prioritization of social, emotional, and behavioral expectations factor into those environments for the students. 

“Charlotte’s thesis project is truly impressive, and promises to shed light on how afterschool programs help to mitigate inequality in our society,” says Hurley. “It has been a pleasure to work with such a motivated and enthusiastic young scholar.”

Working in the afterschool programs also provided experiential learning with behavior management and relationship-building skills that help support students. “Those experiences prepared me for my senior field placement at Baird School, where I’m learning about special education and therapeutic interventions for students with emotional and behavioral challenges and other complex needs,” she says.

Beyond her academic success, Charlotte has immersed herself in a number of high-profile settings at UVM, working as a Resident Advisor, a radio DJ at WRUV, and an illustrator at the Vermont Cynic. She also serves as a teaching assistant for Dr. Christine Velez’s classes in the Social Work Department, and the two of them are working together to co-author a period piece on teaching social work students in the midst of the pandemic.

After graduating with her Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and a minor in Special Education, Charlotte plans to pursue a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. She envisions a career path working in either an educational or private practice setting in a counseling role and researcher raising awareness about issues in education and healthcare fields. 

“The faculty in the Social Work Department and the College of Education and Social Services are the epitome of positive, encouraging, and supportive,” she says. “They guided me in realizing my full potential both as a student and as a future social worker.”


Doug Gilman