Sarah Blakeney

(Christopher Newport)

The Community Services Specialist | 40 Under 40 Class of 2020

"Always find something to make you laugh."

GET TO KNOW SARAH

Organized and brave — that's Sarah Blakeney. After serving in the Peace Corps for a couple of years, Sarah learned a lot about herself and what it means to serve people from different backgrounds. This experience led her to current role as an employment services coordinator. Learn more about Sarah in her extended interview.

EXTENDED INTERVIEW

 

What inspired you to go into this line of work? 
I studied anthropology and took a class on the refugee experience during my undergrade career, which led me to have such a deep appreciation of people going through this process and all the things they are expected to learn in such a short amount of time. I was also a Peace Corps volunteer and living and working abroad really encouraged me to work with international populations and help them learn more about the new culture they are living in like so many people helped me when I first arrived in my host country.

What challenge did you overcome to get where you are today?
After getting back from the Peace Corps, I searched for a job for about six months. I had just moved to a state I had never been to before and not finding a job right away caused a lot of mental and emotional strain on top of the reserve culture shock I was experiencing. 

What do you love most about your job?
Watching people become successful members of American society. Most of my clients have not been in the U.S. for very long but they are able to adjust and figure out what they need to do to support themselves. It really shows you how resilient people can be.
 

Stripes or Polka Dots

Vacation or Staycation

Beach or Mountains

FAST FACTS

 

  • Style Icon
    Melissa McCarthy
     

  • Favorite Season
    Fall
     

  • Can't Live Without
    My cat.
     

  • Favorite Color
    Green
     

  • Favortie Food
    Macaroni and cheese

Physical Book or Audiobook

Left Brain or Right Brain

Describe yourself in three words.
Organized, sarcastic and brave.

Your life philosophy is…
Always find something to make you laugh.

What is the best piece of advice you received?
It’s always a good idea to question why your assumptions exist and what evidence you have to support them.

If someone handed you an airline ticket to a place of your choosing, where would you go and why?
Cambodia. I have always wanted to see Angkor Wat, plus the country’s cultural history is really fascinating to me.


What’s something you cannot live without?
Burt’s Bees.
 

Name a book you read that positively shaped you.
“Educated” by Tara Westover.

If you weren’t working in the industry that you are, what would you be doing instead?
I’d probably be doing some kind of work relating to cultural influences on health and healthcare.

How do you unwind or relax after a long day?
Sit on my couch and watch TV with my cat on my lap.

The most rewarding aspect of your job is…
Helping people every day.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why?
“Refugees and immigrants should always be welcome.” Many of these individuals have already been through so much just trying to get here for a better life and then face so much discrimination and hate just because of where they’re from.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
Baking. I have developed a love of baking and its something that allows me to be creative and make people happy.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
I’m someone who gets overwhelmed by a lot of social interactions, so I usually take a second by myself to just breathe and calm down a bit.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be money, time, energy, etc.) 
I’ve recently started going to therapy, and I think investing in myself and learning about what things have lead me to where I am and how I can mitigate some of my negative thoughts has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was afraid of therapy for a long time but now I wish I had started years ago. 

Name a confident woman of character who you look up to? Why her? 

I recently have been really moved by Lizzo and her body positivity. I have always felt uncomfortable with the way I look but seeing her embrace herself has helped me find ways to love more of me.