Turning Tragedy into Opportunity for Others: Sarah Rosen’s Story

John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Sarah Rosen (1977–2005) was a consummate leader. In return, she inspired those around her to lead as well.

As a staffer on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, Sarah fought for equal opportunity for all in the offices of Representatives Sam Farr (CA-20), Paul Kanjorksi (PA-11), and Jane Harman (CA-36). Her experiences working with those who she felt were “fighting the good fight” led her to become the Communications Director for the Arizona Democratic Party.

Through volunteering, Sarah felt she could dramatically impact individual lives. Sarah began devoting time to Coaching for College, a non-profit middle school mentoring and tutoring program based in Washington, DC co-founded by Mark Bayer, a former Capitol Hill staffer and management consultant who wanted to open doors of opportunity to disadvantaged public school students.

As a coach with the organization, Sarah worked to help students strengthen their academic skills, explore challenging careers, and view education as a vehicle for realizing future opportunities. She was known as a mentor who was both caring and rigorous. She set high expectations for her students and then worked hard with them to provide the necessary support to meet their goals.

Sarah Rosen (1977–2005)

Sarah didn’t hesitate to deliver tough love when required. When one of her students, a bright, quiet girl whose family came from El Salvador, started misbehaving at the summer enrichment program coordinated and funded by Coaching for College, Sarah sprung into action. On a conference call with the girl and her mother, Sarah explained — in the mother’s native Spanish — that her daughter needed to change her ways if she wanted to stay in the program. Sarah’s message was received, loud and clear. The girl immediately returned to her model behavior and had a successful summer.

Sadly, Sarah’s life was cut short when, at the age of only 28, she was killed in a car accident. To continue her commitment to serving others, Sarah’s parents, Sam and Edna Rosen, partnered with the program where Sarah had dedicated so many hours: Coaching for College. Beginning in 2006, Coaching for College launched the “Sarah Rosen Scholars program,” where they selected a student who embodied “the unique qualities that made Sarah so special: kindness, compassion, motivation and a commitment to helping others” and provided him or her with a college scholarship. In the scholarship’s first year alone, it provided a high school student from Shaw Junior High School with the resources required to attend Clemson University. The program went on to help dozens of other students prepare for and attend college, as well.

When Mark decided to wind down Coaching for College’s operations after more than a decade of serving DC public students in need, he wanted to transition Coaching for College’s assets to another program that reflected the organization’s mission and vision and, at the same time, ensure that Sarah’s memory would still live on through a new chapter in the Sarah Rosen Scholars program.

He identified Higher Achievement as the recipient of Coaching for College’s resources. Higher Achievement provides middle school students with rigorous year-round academic opportunities ranging from mentoring to homework help to field trips to summer classes to college visits. As a result of these academic opportunities, 95% of Higher Achievement scholars graduate from high school on time.

Higher Achievement Alumna and Sarah Rosen Scholar Gerlethia Rich

Thanks to the Sarah Rosen Scholars program, Higher Achievement’s services don’t end when a child graduates from eighth grade. The Sarah Rosen Scholars program recruits six high-school-aged alumni to sign up for a two-year summer internship that allows students to intern in an office environment for four days a week and focus on preparing for college one day a week. Interns work in Higher Achievement’s office for the first year of their internship and are then placed offsite for the second year. The first class of interns started the program in the summer of 2016.

Higher Achievement Alumni and Sarah Rosen Scholars Henry Lazona, Pablo Arias, and Houston Godfrey

As a result of the Coaching for College and Higher Achievement partnership, Sarah’s sister, Adrienne Rosen, has joined Higher Achievement’s President’s Council where she serves as a champion for Higher Achievement scholars.

Although Sarah’s life was cut tragically short, her role as a leader in the DC community endures. By encouraging others to “dream more, learn more, do more and become more,”as John Quincy Adams said, Sarah’s legacy of leadership will continue through the lives of middle and high school students across DC.

To contribute to the Sarah Rosen  please specify your generous contribution as “In Memory Of” when filling out the online form. Thank you for donating to these funds. They represent extraordinary people and champions of Higher Achievement.