Leader Spotlight: Sarah Rose

March 27, 2024
Emmaline Giles

Sarah Rose grew up in suburban Maryland with academic parents between Quaker and Jewish communities. Her parents helped instill strong critical thinking skills, an interest in politics, and a curiosity of how things happened around her. Sarah was introduced to Quakerism through school from 3rd to 7th grade where she gained a foundation for valuing equality and justice. Sarah also grew up with ADHD and dyslexia. Early on, she experienced expectations of her she couldn't reach no matter what she did (eg. being chastised for not being able to think in a certain way). To keep up in school along with her peers, she had to constantly readjust to figure out how to complete end goals in different ways or to advocate to change the expected end goal. This learning was a foundational belief because she “believes so much of justice work is about being flexible to what systems could look like for people to access.” 

Sarah was already aware of the social, political, and economic contexts of her environment at a young age. Similar to North County in St. Louis, the county she grew up in became majority black as folks fled the disinvestment and destruction of urban renewal in nearby cities. She initially learned about community organizing through the Quaker community but both history and practice was clarified for her while attending Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. As a political science major and urban studies minor during the 2016 election, she became perplexed on why so many politicians with little to no midwest credibility tokenized rural and Black communities with inauthentic narratives that did not align with the facts and stories she heard from her friends from rural parts of the country. 

Compelled to learn more behind this unjust practice, she knew she needed to live in the communities most impacted by misaligned policies. She moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 2018. Wanting to be connected with community, organizing, and people building power, Sarah joined the local St. Louis Friends Meeting (Quakers), already a member of MCU. Sarah was able to quickly engage as a new MCU leader by supporting 4 different MCU Issue Summits held in 4 separate regions of the STL Metro Region. 

Sarah continued to deepen her engagement believing that “MCU does a good job in investing and nurturing what our logical and spiritual head asks of us, connects us to other passionate people, and gives people of different backgrounds space and credence.”

She believes being a leader with MCU requires “being responsive to community members’ needs and experiences, building clarity with people you are working with through power analysis, and mutually investing in other leaders by agitating and calling-in one another to ensure we are not leading the work on our own.” In fact, her experience in Gamaliel National Network’s (Week-Long) National Leadership Training taught her this mutual investment, albeit can be nerve racking to create tension (to call out disagreements or differences between you and others experiences), is ultimately the most caring act of investing in another person. 

An integral piece of being a leader with MCU includes continuously challenging yourself to take steps up your leadership ladder. Sarah joined MCU’s Board 4 years ago as Treasurer as a major step to become more clear on how organizing money is necessary to organizing power and to be accountable to the community. During these past 4 years, “MCU taught her that organizing is just as much a craft as an activity - [being a leader] isn't just a title but it’s a series of ties to other people.” She also learned “how big of a table you need to have.” In her prior organizing, she saw people her age quickly experience burn out cycles and imagined that organizing was only ever about quick bouts during election cycles. Since becoming a leader with MCU, she has gained a deep appreciation that:

After 4 years as treasurer of MCU’s Board, Sarah recently stepped down to give space for new leadership and ideas but continues to be an active leader. She believes she still has much room to grow as a leader in organizing work particularly around being able to set boundaries so she can be more clear about what she can fully invest in and what the limitations of her capacity are. “Organizing must be sustainable for people to continue to show up as an effective leader,” she says.

Sarah believes local residents throughout her community should get involved with local community organizing because although “the news is so big and scary and makes you feel like a small useless bean, organizing helps!”

She has found so much solace by working alongside other people who care and by making an actual impact on small scale community issues and beyond by building community power and pressure for change.

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MCU puts faith into action by developing leaders who move their congregations, organizations and communities to change public policy for the common good.
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