Lauren Carmichael '11
‘I can’t’ doesn’t need to be in anyone’s dictionary.
A 5-year-old Lauren Carmichael ’11 could barely contain her excitement as she waited at the airport. Her mother and father were bringing her a baby sister from China. “One of the most amazing experiences of my life was when my parents put her in my arms,” she recalls.
From that moment, Lauren saw the world as a place where everyone has the same right to happiness, regardless of circumstances. “I just want the world to be equal and fair, not just for children who have wonderful families, but also for children with disabilities and those who are underprivileged,” she emphasizes.
Growing up in Maine, Lauren had few outlets to exercise her calling. One of her childhood friends had cerebral palsy, so she had the opportunity to observe therapists at work. She practiced the techniques on her dolls— fabricating braces and seeing-eye dogs. So, it seemed a natural career choice to select occupational therapy. “I just like the idea of making the world accessible to others … or at least a little easier for them to access,” she reflects. “‘I can’t’ doesn’t need to be in anyone’s dictionary.”
As she considered colleges, Lauren was drawn to Elizabethtown by the outstanding reputation of its occupational therapy program. In addition, she was excited to learn of the College’s 2007 service-learning trip to Vietnam, which had been developed in partnership with Brittany’s Hope, an organization that facilitates adoptions of children with special needs around the world.
In May 2009, she and more than a dozen others traveled to the country, bringing about $8,000 of rehabilitation equipment and cribs. While in Vietnam, Lauren helped plant a garden at a Red Cross vocational center, painted classrooms, held babies starved for human contact, and provided cultural opportunities to orphans, who had seen little of the beauty of their own country. In addition, she trained Vietnamese staff members to use the donated equipment. “We were just doing simple things, but we were able to make such an impact,” she remembers.
During her time at Elizabethtown, Lauren's passion for helping others achieve equal access spilled over from classes into her co-curricular activities.