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Sarah White: Building Young People’s Confidence Through Literacy


By day, Sarah White is a student at Johns Hopkins University. By night, she manages an editorial team for Miss Millennia Magazine, a publication dedicated to empowering young women to pursue their dreams. Sarah is deeply committed to building confidence in both teenagers and children so that they can grow into their best selves. As a member of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity, she volunteers at an elementary school in the widely illiterate Baltimore area. She has also worked for a literary magazine, compiling work from students from underprivileged backgrounds.

When she is not empowering others through literacy, Sarah supports the artistic community. She has written two plays (which were then produced at Johns Hopkins), helped establish the first Film Conference at the university in her freshman year, and won a scholarship for arts activism and participation in Arts Alive! in her hometown. But Sarah’s artistic talents go beyond all of these achievements—she also sings and plays the ukulele while serving as a summer camp music teacher. At school, she dances, sings, acts, writes and cracks jokes with her friends. She even joined a Bollywood dance team, where she met some of her closest friends. Between her passion for art and her activism in building young people’s confidence through literacy, Sarah is an ideal role model for the children and teenagers she mentors—and for collegiettes everywhere!

Name: Sarah White
Age: 21
College: Johns Hopkins University
Major: Writing Seminars, Minor in Psychology
Graduation Year: 2016
Hometown: South Salem, NY
Twitter Handle: @JHUSarah
Instagram Handle: potatomash64

Her Campus: What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?

Sarah White: Firstly, I have been waiting 21 years for people to refer to me as “witty”; word is finally getting around. For this triumph, I’d like to thank the writers of Friends and Saturday Night Live, all of whom taught me the craft of smart comedy.

Professionally, my greatest achievement is getting paid to write and edit for a magazine that influences young women. I work with a team of these awesome women all of whom are pulling out all the stops every day to provide guidance to the women of Generation Y. It’s why we do it, it’s why Her Campus does it: to make life a little easier and a little happier when you’re at the point where you have to frantically Google something like, “What do I do when I find a typo on my resume and also can I put my heels in the washing machine?” There’s a certain point when a woman wants to figure out how to solve a problem on her own. Rather than calling home, she reads our advice, figures it out on her own, and gains a sense of independence. If Miss Millennia has helped anyone do that, I consider that “achievement unlocked.”

A professional accomplishment aside, my overall greatest success is how I’ve maintained my sense of self through every professional and personal endeavor.

HC: What are you working on right now?

SW: Several things—as is per usual for me. I’m always writing for Miss Millennia, which is always a joy. I’m also interning with Zoozil, a children’s publishing startup that focuses efforts on engaging young readers. In that capacity, I am always speaking with/recruiting new potential authors, which is such an exciting task. At the same time, I’m trying to write more comedy: submitting pitches to some humor websites, secretly (but not so secretly anymore) working on a TV pilot that has yet to materialize. On a much larger scale, I’m working on my master plan to integrate everything that makes me happy. I’ve never had just one dream job, so I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire to help me figure out which path will bring me the most joy and satisfaction. I do hope that I can bring some joy—and belly laughs—to others along the way. I practice my jokes in print and on the rest of the staff of my school’s humor publication.

My childhood best friend and I also started recording some of our musical endeavors for Youtube. We’re called “Game of Tones”, look us up. We’re not the identically titled episode of Futurama.

HC: What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a goal/dream?

SW: Be honest with your heart and your gut. Say whatever you want to other people, you can say you’re going to law school if that’s what keeps your aunt from bugging you, but it’s the most challenging and most rewarding to be honest with yourself about what you want. Even if that doesn’t solve much else right away, it takes a weight off your chest. Recently I’ve admitted to myself that I miss filmmaking, a scary thought since I forewent that major a long time ago, and now I’m just figuring out what to do with that information. Whatever you love, I am positive you can do something with it. Your major is not irrelevant, your passion is not irrelevant; there are ways, when you give in to your heart even a little and combine that love with rational planning, to create something unstoppable. I’m a big believer in love.

HC: What is the most valuable life lesson you have learned from being on a Bollywood dance team? And from working with children?

SW: In my head, I’d always paired “boss” with qualities like “commanding”, “poised”, and frankly, “rude”. Confidence blossomed with my ability to lead and I began to mold my leader persona based on those few associations. For a short while I aspired to be a Miranda Priestly type of character, but quickly realized that my love of people—and generally being a kind person—got in the way. Upon joining my dance team, I admired the captains’ ability to command attention and fix problems using calm decisiveness rather than breaking people down. I mapped the boundaries between raising your voice to be heard and raising your voice to discipline—sometimes you do need regulate a situation with firmness.  When we ultimately created these amazing products, full-blown showcases with sharp and interesting choreography, I was sold on the use of positive encouragement and patience within leadership. I mean, teaching someone with no Bollywood dance background to execute intricate classical moves? Kudos to everyone that had to teach me because that takes an incredible amount of patience, and a ton of authentic care. I’ve grown as a dancer, as a team member, and as a leader just from being under their instruction.

From working with children in several different capacities—a music teacher, a reading tutor through (my sorority) Pi Beta Phi, and a daycare worker—I’ve realized that there are innumerable ways to communicate, learn, and engage others. Frustration is natural and okay, but there is never a reason to be unkind in methodology. If you find yourself in a situation in which you’re frustrated, find the humor in it. Children can always help you find that—just ask a kid what’s funny about a piece of paper, they’ll tell you a million different reasons.

Both of these and all of my other experiences have led me to narrow down things I love, and condense them into my new mantra: education with communication. I hope to find new and unique methods of education using entertaining learning tools.

HC: How have these two experiences helped you with your ventures in editorial, film and theater?

SW: Kids often give me the most perspective. Even when I’m producing something creative for adults, especially with comedy, I try and look at “grown-up” situations from that kind of outside perspective. Sometimes it helps me realize how silly grown-up problems can be. When I’m looking for a good author for a children’s book, I’m looking for someone that will create a world so vivid that those readers will carry it with them forever. I admire organizations like Sesame Workshop for their dedication and creativity in this endeavor. I’m still trying to decide whether I am more fulfilled by the laughter of a room full of adults, or a room full of kids.

From dance, I’ve learned that teamwork is critical and also amazing. I do have a tendency to want to be the boss, or seize control to correct a situation, but as the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I don’t always need to be the Olivia Pope, “the fixer.” I’m learning—slowly—to accept others’ ideas graciously and give those ideas deep, genuine consideration. 

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