Thinking outside the box leads alum to new career opportunities
Sioux City, Iowa – West High School alum Clara Coly understands the importance of ingenuity. Looking at the world differently has allowed her to discover new career paths, including a passion for helping others.
The daughter of Jeff and Holly Macfarlane, who teaches family and consumer science at West High School, Clara appreciated the opportunities that she had as a student in the District. While her involvement in activities such as band, choir, sports, student council, and quiz bowl allowed her to explore her interests, it was the encouragement that she received from her teachers that opened her eyes to new experiences.
“Shelly Nash was my physics teacher at West High, and I began my college journey as a physics major because of her classes. She encouraged me to think outside the box and see the world in new ways,” says Clara. “She taught me how to tackle complex problems by breaking them down and build my grit as I failed, learned, and grew.”
While Clara says that teacher Tunisia Billings taught her English class, she also challenged Clara to reach her fullest potential.
“I attribute my love of valid arguments and my initial interest in philosophy to Tunisia. I remember learning about sentence diagramming in her class, and it unlocked a part of my brain I hadn’t accessed before,” recalls Clara. “I leaned on this knowledge while studying philosophy and still use it every day.”
After graduation, Clara’s educational journey took her to the University of Notre Dame where she began college as a physics major. As she began to realize that physics wasn’t for her, Clara took a philosophy class and found her passion.
“I tell people who are surprised at my switch that philosophy is essentially physics without all the math,” says Clara, who also played bass drum with Notre Dame’s marching band.
In addition to philosophy, Clara studied French which allowed her to study abroad in Senegal, West Africa, where she met her husband, Simon.
After moving back to Sioux City to be closer to her family, Clara began working with outreach programs in the City of Sioux City’s Neighborhood Services Division. Today, she supports individuals experiencing homelessness transition into permanent housing through the City’s Rapid Rehousing Program.
“I love partnering with all the services in the community to meet the needs of those in Sioux City and working towards equity in housing,” adds Clara.
Clara has also found another calling. She is working on certification to become a doula, a professional who supports women before, during, and after labor to ensure a healthy start for parents and babies. She looks forward to opening her own doula business within the year.
“I encourage students to try everything. Don’t put yourself in a box,” says Clara. “There are so many options in the schools now. Try as much as you can.”