MA, Program Director, PHILLIPS School ~ Laurel
Medical complications can happen to anyone, and when a sibling is diagnosed with a condition such as Down syndrome, it’s nearly impossible not to be changed and have a stronger appreciation for how little control we have over our lives and those around us. Growing up with a sister with Down syndrome gave Sarah a sensitivity for the “new normal” that faces the families that are referred to PHILLIPS. In college a community service requirement set her on a course that led her to the highest leadership position at our Laurel School. As a sophomore, Sarah volunteered at a local prison where she was taught inmates her age material to earn their GED. All of them had dropped out of school, had a behavioral health need and/or learning disability and needed to develop the soft job skills to be successful upon re-entry into society. At the prison all of the inmates had to attend school and have a job. The focus was on rehabilitation. Sarah was so taken with the experience that she volunteered as often as she could – spending two to three days a week depending on her work schedule. Sarah is passionate about the work we do at PHILLIPS to provide our youth with the skills that re-direct them from the traditional school to prison pipeline. One of her early students stands out. On an early Sunday morning the phone rang. It was Kenny, who had been released having served his sentence. “How did you find my number?” she asked? He had used the library research skills she had taught him and gone to the local library and looked up her number in a phone book. He was calling because he wanted to buy her a thank you gift for helping him gain skills that would help him find a job. Her request? Finish your GED, become gainfully employed, and make good choices so you never go back to prison. That is the greatest gift of all.
Sarah has worked at the Laurel campus for 19 years, starting as a classroom teacher. As Program Director she is focused on providing students with individualized strength-based programming that allows students to experience success and make social-emotional and academic progress. Sarah graduated with a B.A. from James Madison University where she majored in English and History and minored in Secondary Education. She holds a master’s degree from George Washington University in Education and Human Development with a concentration in Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Additionally she holds a graduate certification in Educational Administration and Supervision from Johns Hopkins University.
When not at work, Sarah loves reading books, spending time with her husband and young daughter and retreats to the beach.