As a Baltimore resident, Megan McGowan says she frequently encounters “squeegee kids” looking to wash her vehicle’s windshield for money. After expressing her frustration with them to her city councilman, she followed his suggestion to channel her negative feelings into positive action by working with at-risk individuals who are disadvantaged in life.
McGowan joined Thread, a nonprofit that builds relationships to improve opportunity and achievement gaps for students at the bottom 25% of their high school class. She says the volunteer opportunity has opened her eyes to the talent and excellence that exists in the young people of Baltimore.
Since 2019, McGowan has worked with her mentee, now 18, to improve his school attendance and classwork in order to graduate from high school. Accepted into a community college, he is currently working at a full-time job, however.
“I like to think that my young person is helped by me, but it’s a very mutual relationship,” says McGowan, who explains she had numerous opportunities growing up in a stable, supportive family near Buffalo, New York. “I’ve had to look at the unconscious biases I have when it comes to privilege and race. I have been able to learn a new perspective when it comes to Baltimore City, poverty and the disadvantage that some people have.”
In addition to working with Thread, McGowan makes 20 meals a month that are delivered to the homeless and others in need as part of a local ministry at St. Ignatius Church in Baltimore.
At Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, McGowan works as a certified clinical specialist in the hospital’s Myositis Center, managing webinars and presenting at national conferences about the rare muscle disorder. As an occupational therapist in the rehabilitation department, she works to ensure that patients can resume their daily living tasks after illness or injury. But she also extends her compassion here by creating activity books, donating reading glasses and offering comforting words to support patients, including those with COVID-19.