For my first “Featured Influential Woman” post, I wanted to highlight a dear friend of mine, Sarah Orren, Coordinator of Education and Marketing for the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity at Virginia Tech. I first met Sarah in what was the very first graduate level course for both of us, Nonprofit Organizational Leadership. We bonded over the shared difficulty with grasping graduate level work and we’ve been friends ever since. After learning more about Sarah over the past few years, I discovered she was a wiz at marketing and reached out to her for assistance when I first started this project, Women Influencing the Arts.
Sarah has played a vital role in the development of this project: from developing the project’s website; constantly serving as a sounding board, allowing me to bounce ideas off of her; to editing my written materials. I truly could not have done any of this without her.
While all of this showcases her many talents, it is not the reason I am writing about her. Along with her skills and expertise in marketing and design, Sarah also has a passion for the nonprofit arts and holds a graduate certificate in Nonprofit and Nongovernmental Organization Management from Virginia Tech.
At the age of 5 Sarah’s mom put her into dance class where she took ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical dance until she graduated high school. As an adult she continued dancing with Belly Dancing and eventually earned a teaching certificate for Zumba. She believes her experience with dance throughout her life has taught her discipline and encouraged her to not give up. Dance has also taught her the value of having a strong work ethic. In dance, as well as other performing art forms, the dedication to perfect ones craft equips those who study it with many skills that can be transferred over to life in general.
For these reasons Sarah wanted to enroll her step daughter, Dylan, into a dance studio. It was important to Sarah that the dance studio be one that did not focus on the “competition” aspect of dance, but rather encourage the learning of technique and passion for dance, in a family environment. During her search she found the Sapphire Dance Center where Dylan showed much enthusiasm and progress in her first year.
It was at the end of the season, and after the annual dance recital, that the owner informed the students and parents that she, much to her disappointment, was no longer able to continue with the business. Sarah was determined to not let go of this wonderful studio where both her and Dylan had found a home and were able to practice dance. So, she did the only thing she knew to do. She met with the owner and convinced her to share the listserv of parent emails so she may contact them. To her surprise, Sarah was able to find a core group who agreed that this studio was too important to just let it shutdown. Since then, Sarah and this group of volunteers have formed an executive committee and managed to not only keep the doors open, but to continue offering classes to all age groups.
I was fortunate enough to visit Sapphire Dance Center to speak to Sarah further about her new venture. As soon as I walked in I felt at home. The lobby was full of parents with their children waiting excitedly for their class to start. The children were so excited to see their friends who they hadn’t seen in forever (a week in kid’s time seems like an eternity) and to get into the space to work with their instructors.
Sarah explained that the members of the committee take turns acting as the personnel at the front desk during the week as well as pitch in with cleaning the facilities.
Sarah shared how the community has rallied around the efforts of her and the committee by providing furniture for the lobby and pitching in to paint the studio. It is has been a true communal effort.
Sarah hopes in the future to open a nonprofit dance studio to serve the community incorporating dance classes not just for children, but for seniors and the disabled community. The future nonprofit dance studio will also provide scholarships for students whose parents may not be able to afford classes.
There is currently no other dance studio in the area that provides these community services. I have no doubt that Sarah will succeed in making this dream come true.She has been a true inspiration to me,teaching me to never give up on my dreams!
Is there a woman in the arts you find inspiring? Share their story!