2023 Rising Phoenix Awards nomination acceptance – Sarah Scalabrino
Sarah was nominated for a Rising Phoenix Award by 2015 Rising Phoenix Kevin Myers. Sara elected to submit written answers to the qualification questions rather than being interviewed, and here are her answers:
1. Please describe what things about you changed though this personal transformation, when they * changed, and how those changes showed to others.
Due to my experiences, I have experienced challenges with mental health issues such as insomnia, nightmares, panic attacks, anxiety, and depression that have continued throughout my life. This has caused me to be a strong advocate for access to mental health services for all and to work towards eradicating the stigma associated with having mental health conditions. My experiences with homelessness and instability caused me to seek out opportunities to assist those in need. Once I was living with my dad, I took interest in service opportunities. My first attempt at fundraising was through a lemonade stand that I created to raise money for the Humane Society. I went on to participate in mission trips with my youth group during my high school years. These trips allowed me to travel stateside to different areas doing work such as demolition to rebuild homes for needy families; working in various food pantries; assisting youth and adults with special needs; tutoring and mentoring youth; and a great deal more. I was vice president of my graduating class and secretary for the National Honor Society chapter at my school. I excelled in school and was able to get a lot of scholarships to go to college; however, not nearly enough to cover the costs. I had to work three jobs to support myself through my undergraduate program where I got my bachelor’s in social work at Eastern Michigan University.
2. As a result of your transformation, what things did you do or create that had a positive impact on * those around you? How did those things impact others, who did they impact, and what was your role in those actions?
Post-graduation, I chose to pursue a career in working with people experiencing homelessness and housing instability through Housing Access for Washtenaw County. I started as an intake specialist doing crisis triage intervention. I was then promoted to work as a housing resource specialist where I administered federal and state funding to prevent evictions and provide assistance with move in costs. During the pandemic, I served as the supervisor for the case management team for the state’s Eviction Diversion Program and also served as court liaison, attending court to advocate for those at risk of losing their housing and connecting them to resources to prevent their evictions. At the beginning of the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program, I trained and supervised staff that were administering the funding to keep people housed during the pandemic.
After leaving Housing Access for Washtenaw County. I began working with SOS Community Services in September of 2022 as the Ypsilanti Parent Network Coordinator which is a program meant to help parents in making sure their child can be successful in school and life while parents are also able to work towards their own educational and career goals. This program connects parents with employment opportunities, apprenticeships, GED classes, CDA classes, parent education classes, life skills, and more.
My experiences working on the homelessness prevention programs I was able to be a part of showed me that I have a passion for working in policy analysis, development, and evaluation because I strongly believe continuously reviewing and revising our approaches to issues as large as homelessness is critical to ensuring we are staying informed, equitable in our approach, and inclusive of all people’s situations. Those we serve are always going to be the experts in their own situations. Designing programs and processes based on the things we learn from those we work with is critical to addressing the issues themselves. Because of this, I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management so I can someday develop my own nonprofit or be a part of creating comprehensive policies to address homelessness, with an emphasis on anti-human trafficking legislation. My experiences growing up will continue to stay with me throughout my entire life, but I want to continue to use those experiences and what I have learned through them to advocate and support others in their journey towards stability and becoming who they want to be.
3. Please describe the personal “wealth” or growth you found as a result of your transitions and * transformations.
The personal wealth or growth that I have found as a result of my transformation has been that my experiences make me powerful. They make me kind and compassionate. They make me a great listener, a loyal friend, and a strong advocate. You never know what someone is going through or what they have gone through. We all have our own unique lived experiences that make us the people we are today and each and every one of us are valid and important in the effort of creating a better tomorrow for generations to come. I believe my experiences have shown me that through great struggle comes great perseverance and opportunities to change the world. On the mission trips I went on growing up, the leaders would have our parents write us a letter for us to read on our last day of the trip. My dad wrote me a letter that has stuck with me to this day. It said, “you will change the world someday,” and I wake up every day with that intention in mind hoping that what I do in this lifetime can make someone wake up each day and hope to do the same.