Student News

Student Profile: Jillian Froelick took a life-changing journey

When Jillian Froelick headed overseas for a gap year before coming to Carolina, she had no idea the experience would change her life.

Froelick went to Tanzania, volunteering to teach in an orphanage and then in a special needs classroom for children with hearing disabilities.

She spent weeks working in the special needs classroom, with children ranging from 6 years old all the way to 18.

Froelick remembers one 17-year-old boy in particular, who was trying to learn long division.

They worked hard, staying in the classroom during lunch, trying to communicate even though she only knew limited Swahili and some sign language.

“There were a lot of days when I know we were both frustrated and sad that we couldn’t find a way to make it work,” she said.

Then, one day, it suddenly made sense. After finishing a math problem, his eyes lit up and he looked at Froelick with excitement. Holding back tears of joy, she told him it was the right answer.

“You could just tell how proud he was of himself – and he should have been,” she said.

It was such a powerful moment to her that Froelick knew then that she wanted to be a teacher.

Her trip to Tanzania, as well as an education class she stumbled upon last year, gave Froelick her newfound passion for working with children.

“I never thought of myself as a teacher, but as soon as I was in an education class, it just clicked,” she said.

Froelick said she had never found herself so passionate about anything as much as teaching.

“Knowing that in my future job I’ll be making a difference every single day. It’s like a dream come true,” she said.

Coming to Carolina

During her senior year of high school Froelick was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to attend both UNC and Duke University as a Robertson Scholar.

Froelick, now a junior, is majoring in sociology and child development and family studies at UNC, as well as completing a certificate in child policy research at Duke.

During all four years of her undergraduate education, Froelick has access to both universities, including the libraries, classes and student activities. Froelick said she has taken one class at Duke every semester since coming to Carolina.

“It would be such a shame not to take advantage of the opportunity to use both schools and all the incredible resources that they have,” she said.

For Froelick, who grew up in North Carolina, coming to UNC was a no-brainer.

She said that her sister had already gone to Carolina, so she knew it was a great school. Then, receiving the Robertson Scholarship sealed the deal.

“I knew I could get an incredible education here,” she said, “It was an opportunity I couldn’t imagine turning down.”

Through the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program, Froelick has received funding for three summer experiences that she works with the program staff to design to fit her interests. This summer, she plans to complete a child life internship in the last step in the process of obtaining her child life certification.

“They’re teaching you how to be a leader, not only to other people, but in your own life as well,” she said.

Froelick recently learned that she has received the Morris Fellowship at Duke, which will fund her research with Duke Hospital School in the school transition process for children with chronic medical conditions.

Froelick plans to use the $500 she will receive through the fellowship to go to Cincinnati to see an established hospital-to-school transition program first-hand.

“I applied for it kind of thinking it was a long shot,” said Froelick. “I’m so excited.”

In addition to classes, as part of her child development and family studies major, Froelick will work for two weeks each in classrooms with children ranging from infants through kindergarteners before being placed in an internship. Then, spring of senior year, she will complete her student teaching experience in a public elementary school.

Froelick also works as a volunteer at a local animal shelter once a week and in the CPALS program at the UNC hospitals.

Undecided about what to do after graduating, Froelick said she would love to teach, travel, become a child life specialist or join the Peace Corps, among other things.

“There are a lot of things I want to do,” she said, “As long as I’m with kids I know I’ll be happy.”