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Meet Dr. Rosemary Sarri, our third 2017 Role Model. Dr. Sarri is Professor Emerita of Social Work at the University of Michigan and will be receiving the Champion Award, in honor of her steadfast support of AFG’s mission, at this year’s Role Model Dinner.
Here are some clips from her recent conversation with AFG.
Alternatives For Girls: You’ve been involved with AFG since its conception. When and how did you become involved?
Dr. Rosemary Sarri: I became involved largely through Amy Good (AFG CEO), who was a student of mine. I was doing some work with some agencies in the community at the time, while I was teaching and doing work at U of M. [Amy] contacted me about starting a shelter for girls and young women and the needs of high risk girls at the time. So I agreed to help. We did some work before the agency was formally established and that took placed at the church on the corner of Trumbull and Michigan Avenue. I helped in various ways once we got things started, we did some studies of girls in the programs and provided that to AFG so we could improve the programs.
One of my primary areas of interest was juvenile justice and I helped Alternatives get some programs started in that area. We had a program at Alternatives, a mentoring program for children whose parents were involved in the justice system and programs for young women who got involved in the juvenile justice system. I was particularly interested in high–risk youth involved in the justice system.
So, I played a lot of roles and they were more related to my professional competence, like evaluating services for high-risk youth and the impact on their families. I was also a board member for twenty years.
AFG: Clearly, you have felt inspired to give back to the community. Is there any part of your personal story that has led to this?
Dr. Sarri: I’ve been a professional social worker and a teacher for most of my life. And before that, I was practitioner and when I learned about the needs of youth and families, I had the desire to help them in any way they could. Particularly helping them get an education.
AFG: For many of the women we serve, AFG provides the support system for them to help them make positive choices. Was there anyone in your life or career who helped guide you in making important decisions?
Dr. Sarri: Oh, gobs of people! Hundreds of people have provided wonderful guidance to me over the years, from the time I was in grade school. Especially my parents. My mom was a strong pusher that all of her children would get an education and achieve. It was critical for that to occur in my entire family.
I’ve had wonderful teachers and guidance people. I had so many teachers who were critical in helping me get started and get me through the steps I needed to go through. I happened to be the oldest in my family so I had to do it first. Besides my own mother, I can’t think of anyone but the teachers that I had that really made a difference to me.
AFG: Can you tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced throughout your career?
Dr. Sarri: I suppose a big challenge was being able to successfully complete my education because I came from a relatively poor, rural background. So getting a PhD meant a great deal of sacrifice and hard work on my part. There was a lot of resistance against women getting a doctorate, it was a big battle. I kind of enjoy the battle, that’s the way it is. I’ve fought all my life, I’ve had to really be willing to take on things and take on challenges and I’ve been willing to do that. There was a lot of discrimination against women in professional careers, particularly if you were married. There were a lot of serious obstacles. I’m 90 years old, so I’ve gone through a lot of this.
AFG: What advice would you give to the young women that AFG serves?
Dr. Sarri: Be active in community affairs in whatever way incorporates your particular talents and interests. Be active in trying to advance the status of other women and girls!