Alumni Spotlight: Morgan Healy Earns Gates-Cambridge Scholarship
If you wonder what path in life your child might take, and how their early schooling experiences are shaping their future choices, we like to highlight MPCSD alumni from time to time to give you some examples of where our students go from here. Recently we caught up with Morgan Healy, who began kindergarten in MPCSD in 2000, and has just been awarded the Gates-Cambridge Scholarship to earn a PhD in Education at Cambridge University. For her dissertation she will design a parenting intervention for Brazilian mothers that helps them to build their child’s executive functions through play.
Morgan became passionate about early learning as a Fulbright scholar living in Brazil and as a fellow with the Mayor of Baton Rouge, LA where she contributed to the city’s Cradle to K Parenting Program. She is interested in what education systems look like around the world and earned a Masters in International Education Policy from Harvard in 2019.
When asked about her early schooling, it was her kindergarten days that stood out as most formative. “I loved the colorful walls of my classroom where we hung all the art that we made, and that the playground was right outside my classroom door. I loved the swings. Sometimes I would just put my ear to the ground and listen to the earth. Play was such an integrated part of our days. We learned in the classroom and by being outside.” Morgan credits her success to the schools in MPCSD and the “unique blessing” of having had excellent, veteran teachers who had been honing their craft for decades.
Initially trained as a high school English and history teacher at Boston College, Morgan taught briefly in East Palo Alto before returning to Brazil and realizing she wanted to make a difference by designing ways to help whole societies better educate their children. She says it is “important that parents have positive interactions with their children, but that is often less likely in areas of high poverty because parents face so many stressors and external pressures.” She hopes to create interventions, seamlessly integrated into birth-kindergarten programs for families, that encourage executive function development in children, and relieve some of the stress and anxiety that parents feel. Morgan believes, and research shows, that the investment a society makes in high quality early learning yields the most impactful return in terms of academic and personal success of children and whole communities.
Morgan shared some insightful advice for parents of young children. “I would say focus on relationships and let kids explore whatever they want without pressure to excel in one thing or another. The chance to try and fail at lots of things makes you unafraid. It’s that lack of fear of trying new things that has helped me see different strengths within myself.” And to children just figuring out what they are interested in, she adds, “The best advice I could give a child, honestly, is to read. Just read any type of book and it will open your world. The most interesting people I have met are avid readers.”
We wish Morgan Healy great success as she pursues her PhD through the Gates-Cambridge Scholarship, and are honored that spending her first school years at MPCSD gave her the skills and resilient attitude to tackle the fullness of life, unafraid.