It is a pleasure to join the Trellis Foundation team as Grants and Operations Manager. The Foundation’s work investing in postsecondary education strongly impacts educational institutions and our community. Knowing that my contributions can lead to lasting change and improved educational outcomes is a source of immense pride and satisfaction.
The professional journey that brought me to the Trellis Foundation has been diverse. I started in a very different place, as a news designer at a small-town newspaper in Indiana. As a journalist, I was driven by a deep-seated commitment to justice and equity. I wanted to be part of building strong communities and saw the way information can empower people to act. Though I left journalism behind, that idea of empowering others through access to information remained a common thread throughout the rest of my career and ultimately led me to focus on education.
Early in our marriage, my husband and I ran away to Western Samoa with the Peace Corps. I taught high school computer studies for two years, and my husband taught carpentry at the technical school next door. I learned a lot from my time teaching but may have learned more from my husband’s experience. So many of the students enrolled at the technical school had been actively denied the opportunity to go on to other postsecondary education opportunities – many because they were not fluent in English, and English was the language of higher education in Samoa. I watched him struggle to support these bright, eager students in gaining the skills they needed to secure well-paying jobs. His experience inspired him to return to school himself. He had never finished an undergraduate degree and suddenly became a 30-year-old freshman. This time around, higher education stuck, and he continued to a master’s and, ultimately, his Ph.D.
Access to higher education had a transformative power in both of our lives. For me, the transformation came from my experience leading university programs. At Indiana University, I started a program for high school students to introduce them to the university experience and encourage them to seek degrees in less-commonly taught languages and business. We focused on students likely to be the first in their families to earn an undergraduate degree. A college campus can be intimidating, and we wanted to create an opportunity for our Business is Global students to build their confidence and become more comfortable in a higher education environment. It is hard to believe, but those first students are approaching 30 themselves now, so many of them have gone on to impressive careers.
Though I am inspired by the impact the programs I was part of had on individuals, I am even more excited to have a role in the work the Trellis Foundation is doing to change the very systems that ultimately create access to or can create barriers to postsecondary education. I am a systems person. The what – the mission – of our work is very important to me. But the how – the way we do the work – is where I dig in.
We all know systemic inequities persist even when not our intention. We do this work because we want to fight systemic inequities while knowing that we participate in the systems that perpetuate them. In Samoa, the system made it almost impossible for some of our students to go to university, even when every person along their academic journey did their best to help them succeed. And we can see the same things built into systems here in Texas. I believe how we do our work at the Foundation is integral to dismantling these systemic inequalities. And I believe we can actively build systems that advance equitable educational opportunities for all Texans.
About the Author
Sara Reeves joined the Trellis Foundation in 2023 after managing United Way for Greater Austin’s grantmaking processes for six years. She also served as the grantwriter for incoming programmatic grant funding and oversaw grant administration. Before joining the United Way Team, Sara was a program manager in higher education, focusing on leadership development, international business, and entrepreneurship. Sara spent time in Western Samoa with the Peace Corps, where she served as a secondary school computer instructor. Before joining the Peace Corps, Sara worked as journalist at newspapers in Indiana and Florida.
Sara earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and women’s studies from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree from Indiana University in Public Affairs, focusing on nonprofit management.