Sara grew up in Northern California, born into a family of entrepreneurs and self-starters. Her grandparents owned their own business.
Her father was an independently published author. Her family developed—and sold—a board game. In the summers, when Sara was staying with her grandparents at Lake Tahoe, she’d sell fruit along the lake’s beaches. On the Fourth of July, she’d sell glow sticks. “My family always supported developing ideas, trying them out, and taking risks,” she says.
During high school, Sara helped her mother make and sell stuffed bears with rice kernels inside; when microwaved, the bears became heating pads to warm up kids’ beds. Sara says that being trusted to co-manage the business and make decisions was empowering, and she also learned how to develop a creative idea and bring it to fruition.
And ideas were always popping up. Sara was ravenous to learn, explore, and understand. She set a goal to be bilingual before graduating from high school. To reach it, she spent the summer in Mexico, living with a host family in Guadalajara and enrolling in a Spanish language and culture program. When she first arrived, overwhelmed by being far from home, she cried on the phone to her mother. But by the end of her stay, when her host brother dropped her at the airport, she cried because she didn’t want to leave.
Sara chose the University of Puget Sound because of the International Political Economy Program. With her background in small businesses, she felt that economic opportunity was the key to unlocking the potential of low-income people and communities.
But the classroom held her for only so long. “I wanted to learn more about the world and how the world works,” she says. She traveled widely during college, spending two semesters abroad and traveling during the summers—to Spain, Chile, France, and Costa Rica. Already fluent in Spanish, she studied French at Puget Sound, and has since studied Portuguese, Arabic, and Italian.
After graduation, Sara bought an around-the-world plane ticket and hatched a plan to travel for 11 months while figuring out what was next. Starting in Portugal, she spent time in Australia, Belgium, Chile, Morocco, Spain, Greece, Holland, New Zealand, and Argentina. Everywhere she went, she asked herself: What is important to this place? And she sought to learn about it. In Sydney, she volunteered for Amnesty International, working on immigration issues. In Belgium, she got an internship with a member of the European Parliament. Back in San Francisco, she worked at the Foundation for Sustainable Development doing translation work and producing materials for the organization’s Peace Corps-like programs.
She was eager to learn and gregarious with strangers, and all her traveling proved to be formative. “There are definitely cultural differences, but there’s also a common humanity,” she says. “My eyes were opened to a wider complexity in the world. Our geopolitical borders are really artificial.”