By Cali Carper, Penn State University -
I’ve been told that enacting change will fall on my generation, that the issues we face
- whether economic, social or political - will meet their end in our hands and with our voices. At times, the outside pressure seems overwhelming.
We’re stuck asking: how do we stay informed, who should we support, and how do we have meaningful conversations about politics? The questions are endless, but it’s our duty to resolve them.
Before, I’d always assumed innovation was reserved for the business sector. In thinking that, I failed to appreciate how everyday people spark change by innovating around political and social justice topics. Thankfully, Sarah Yacoub offered detailed insight on her journey with local politics, evaluating mental health, and advocating for abuse survivors.
Sarah first pursued politics while interning on Capitol Hill for Congressman Adam Schiff, now-Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Then, she pursued a J.D. on partial scholarship at Southwestern Law School. Immediately after law school, she landed her dream job as deputy district attorney with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.
Alongside her honorable work, Sarah remains actively involved in her children’s lives. Her love of motherhood dictated the move from fast-paced Los Angeles, California to rural Wisconsin.
Presently, she’s campaigning for Wisconsin State Assembly District 30. Her motto, “Healthy people. Healthy economy.” She perseveres as a leader in the community, campaigning, protesting, and showing her unequivocal support for important issues.
Advocacy, Charity, Support
Sarah created a home in Wisconsin, carrying her faith, values, and devotion to enact change. In the summer of 2017, she kick started a “scrappy operation” and charity, Equal Justice Inc.
Sarah defines the big picture goal for Equal Justice Inc as better serving children in the community. To do so, Sarah aids survivors of abuse or sexual assault and working families. “The people who needed legal representation the most are the people who had least access to it,” Sarah notes. Thus, she aimed her efforts towards bettering how the community and law interact. The charity partners with Turningpoint Wisconsin, a local non-profit, to refer clients for no-cost legal services.
“In a culture where there’s a lot of pressure not to talk about what goes on behind closed doors, it’s an area where we’ve been very happy to step up and help litigate those cases so victims and survivors don’t have to navigate that on their own,” she explains. Providing aid is essential. Sadly, these demographics and issues are under served in the community and statewide. Although she’s not alone fighting for change, she’s the only person who offers no-cost legal services locally.
At first, Sarah was hesitant to get involved in family law. For some, the brutal insight into the vulnerable, exposed, and destructive elements of communities would be deterrent enough. But Sarah’s personal experiences with family law only ignited her passion. She addresses the problem areas, but seeks to give others an experience superior to her own.
What does justice look like to Sarah? “If the door closes on people who aren’t rich, I mean, that’s not a justice system to be proud of. We need a system
that works for everybody.” That’s why when Sarah took the oath to practice law, she dedicated herself to redefining what justice looks like for those who most need it.
When all is said and done, her goal centers on providing aid to others, not enriching herself. But Sarah has gained great insight through her work. Sarah learned to reflect on new perspectives, practice empathy, and harbor compassion for her clients. She continues to strive for peace, safety, and relief as fundamental values.
Advice for Future Advocates and Innovators
Sarah’s advice is plentiful:
Have the hard conversations. “Polite people don’t talk politics” is a dangerous mentality. It prevents discussions rather than encouraging them, which leads to separation over unity. Progress depends on hard talks with family, with opposing voices, and with each other.
Accept constructive criticism. Her mother taught her this powerful lesson as a child.
Promote empathy. Lack of empathy breeds misunderstandings. Without mindfulness, we disrespect each other, nature, and humanity.
It starts with the people. We can’t have a healthy economy without healthy people. We must invest in our community to ensure members are provided basic necessities to live a healthy, safe life.
Follow your passion. When you incorporate what you love into your life daily, you find the clarity to see where you belong.
Value your experiences. Use your story to your advantage to educate others, ground yourself, and harness your strengths.
Sarah’s definition of leadership resonated with me. “The definition of good leadership varies depending on who you ask, but for me, it has a lot to do with having the courage to have hard conversations and to lead those conversations. And then [have] the tenacity to work through them.”
When it comes to politics, I struggle to initiate the hard conversations. Sarah has introduced me to my local government, so I’m applying my knowledge in real time to see how issues I’m passionate about are addressed. Slowly, I’m discovering how to voice my beliefs, educate myself, and support my values.
Sarah’s youthful spirit makes her a welcome addition to the community. She’s a leader, building credibility and hope through her devotion to the people. Moreover, Sarah’s voice for change echoes far and wide. Many view older generations as against us, but her ideals shed light on the collective voices fighting to be heard today.
The world needs passion and people. It needs emotion, energy, and dedication to better society. Although I’m discovering my own path, visualizing on-the-ground change from leadership in my community encourages me to first follow, then lead. Most importantly, a promising future seems closer than ever with all generations mirroring the voice of change.
Cali Carper is an undergraduate student at The Pennsylvania State University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.