“To know that I’m not giving these girls … a Michigan degree, but a chance at a better life, that’s really rewarding.”
While many college students barely have time to heat up a bowl of ramen noodles, LSA senior Meaghan O’Connor has baked over 1,000 cupcakes this year. But the Grand Rapids, Mich. native isn’t trying to fill an insatiable sweet tooth — she’s hoping to inspire students around campus.
It was through a marketing internship with Food Network Magazine in New York this past summer that O’Connor met the national organizer of She’s the First, a national non-profit organization that raises money to send girls to school. When she came back to Ann Arbor in the fall, O’Connor co-founded the University’s chapter of the club. This is where the cupcakes come in: The club has periodic bake sales with all of the money raised from selling its signature tie-dyed cupcakes going to support the education of underprivileged girls in Guatemala.
“I was inspired to start this non-profit because I feel really blessed to have this educational experience,” O’Connor said.
So far, the club has raised enough money to send two girls to school, an impressive feat for a fledgling organization. And national organizers have noticed. Earlier this month, she and LSA junior Elizabeth Rich, another member of the student organization, went to the Clinton Global Initiative University conference, where they met with Chelsea Clinton and other student leaders to discuss global issues.
Besides baking, O’Connor also mentors local high school students as part of Young Life, a non-denominational Christian ministry she herself was a part of in high school. She meets with about 20 students once a week to read the Bible, discuss life and give advice. As the oldest of four, she said she is drawn to helping younger people.
“I think with growing up with younger siblings I’ve always had a knack for caring for younger people,” she said.
Currently, she has internships with Current Magazine in Ann Arbor and Neebo, the textbook company. She’s also a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority and she was editor-in-chief of The Forum Greek Newspaper for two years.
O’Connor will graduate a year early this May. Though she has no concrete plans yet, she said she will go back to New York, where all of her internship and job experience will hopefully land her in a marketing position at a magazine.
“I really feel ready to be at the next step in my life,” she said. “It terrifies me, but I’m also ready for it at the same time.”
Though she used to be shy in high school, she said coming to college broke her out of her shell. Through her internship experiences — as well as many trials and errors — she said she transformed from a soft-spoken leader to an outspoken go-getter. If her time at the University has taught her anything, it’s to branch out and make connections with people.
“Something I’m excited about is being part of such a vast, supportive network,” she said. “I’m really excited to keep giving back to people through what I’ve learned and what I will learn.”
Here are the other Students of the Year.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article misstated O’Connor’s role with the University’s chapter of She’s the First. She is a co-founder, not the founder.