RCBC graduate makes great strides in science, business and life
Thursday, May 11, 2023

If ever there was a Renaissance student graduating from Rowan College at Burlington County, Sarah Heil encapsulates that role in stride. Heil is a member of several honors societies on campus, pursues personal scientific research and even beekeeping, all while balancing an art business and a full-time job as a classroom behavioral analyst and aide. Not only that, but she’s also maintained a perfect 4.0 throughout her academic career at the college, which earned her recognition as a 2023 President’s Award winner.

In terms of her scientific research, Heil has been making strides in the field of neurotoxin studies. She referred to her interest as “somewhat of an accident” while working in the classroom. Working with students who have autism, Sarah became interested in researching what really causes this phenomenon in the brain, and began to look into the ways in which ingestion of neurotoxins on behalf of a mother may affect the brain health of their child. 

Sarah began running experiments in her own home with carbon air purifiers using reverse osmosis, tracking the symptoms and overall health of her family while the air was being purified as opposed to when the machines were switched off. Her conclusion was that purified air leads to fewer symptoms of common illnesses. “I wouldn’t have known about pursuing neurological research without RCBC’s psychology program,” Heil said. Overseeing this process was RCBC professor Mala Jayatilleke, Heil’s student research mentor.

Not only is Sarah succeeding in her independent scientific research, she also runs a commission-based art business which she started by practicing art while still in high school. After experiencing a period of intense personal strife, Heil turned to creating art in her high school art room during lunch, eventually realizing that it was a cathartic outlet for all of her experiences. Now, the young entrepreneur has created a business in which she sells her art, and has progressed massively from the dark period she experienced as a teenager. “My art is so much lighter, and I think you can see how healing it’s been…” she said of the differences between her art then and now.

In order to maintain her business, work and interests, Sarah has been completing her RCBC psychology courses online. “It’s way more flexible,” she said, adding that RCBC’s course flexibility has given her the time and space necessary to pursue her dreams. Most recently, she’s been interested in beekeeping, as well as officially starting a business selling organic, toxin-free beeswax products made by her own bees.

Heil’s success comes after experiencing trauma. She battles mental health issues in her daily life, and has devoted herself to breaking the stigma that people suffering from mental illnesses cannot succeed. When people observe success, it tends to be all that they see, but “the pain is what created the success. It’s behind it,” she said.
It takes Heil a lot of energy just to level the playing field and get on the same page as everyone else, not to mention achieve what anyone would presume to be the impossible.

“I want people to know that it is possible,” she explained. “There’s a lot of stigma that those with mental health issues are disadvantaged, but we’re not incapable of succeeding.” 

Now, Sarah works as an classroom behavioral analyst, a full-time position that she maintains alongside her full-time student status, beekeeping, art business and neuroscientific studies. Eventually, she hopes to become a multi-preneur and continue seeking out knowledge “whenever and wherever” she can.

Whenever she feels depression or panic resurfacing throughout her busy days, she takes a moment to remind herself: “The pain is temporary. The goal is in sight. I have to keep going.”

Sarah’s advice to other students is to “never let other people’s views tarnish what is possible for you… you can do anything you want.”