When Sara Goetz reflects back on her high school days at Robert Bateman Secondary, she remembers the time with great fondness. A high-performing student, Sara also played sports and was very involved in serving her community. While she enjoyed all of her classes, she particularly liked her science and mechanics classes. She didn’t know it at the time but this interest was to foreshadow how she would later give back to graduates in pursuing their own studies.
FROM DIFFICULT TIMES TO FINDING HER FAITH
Sara’s teen years were deeply impacted when someone very close to her got quite sick. While this didn’t affect her grades or attendance, it was a challenging time for her. She cites the support of her friends and family in helping her navigate her high school years successfully. It was during this time that Sara was invited to a friend’s faith-based youth group. Looking back, this was the catalyst for a major change in her life. After a year of attending the group, Sara became a Christian. It was something that impacted how she carried herself and acted towards others. She felt she became more mindful of the friends she spent time with and how she could be more serving to others.
Sara also completed a Health and Human Services certificate at UFV during her grade 11 and 12 years. This was an additional load to her studies but one she felt was important to help propel her into her dream career. She also engaged in many hours of volunteer work, spending time supporting those in care at the hospital and a senior care facility. She did as much as she could to support her goal to follow in her mother’s footsteps, a pediatric nurse (now retired). Turns out life had other plans for Sara.
THE SPECIAL MOMENT
In her grade 12 year, she applied for several awards through Abbotsford Community Foundation’s (ACF) Student Awards Program. Completing the application felt like a lot of work while she was already focusing on getting good grades in her last year of high school. However, by the time her convocation ceremony came around, she’d completely forgotten about having applied. That made it even more surprising when she heard her name called for the Calder-Giacchini memorial scholarship for academic excellence. For Sara, it was a special moment.
“It really felt like someone believed in my future”.
This support was crucial because she was planning on going to nursing school after graduation. Despite all the hours of study, volunteerism, and good grades, Sara wasn’t able to secure a seat after applying twice to her program of choice. Nursing is a highly competitive program across Canada and Sara wanted to stay local. Not being able to pursue her dream job took a toll on her confidence as a young person who was hoping to make a difference in the future.
A NEW PATH FORWARD
It was at this point that Sara decided to take a year off to travel abroad. When she returned, she attended a conference at Summit Pacific College and learned about their programs. The not-for-profit program piqued her interest, leading her to start with a one-year discipleship program, OMEGA. She always knew she wanted a career where she could help others, which is why she stayed for another 4 years to complete a degree in not-for-profit organizational leadership.
Sara loved her time at Summit Pacific College, specifically enjoying the small class size and focus on educating, equipping, and enriching the next generation of leaders. She had the opportunity to get to know her program director and professors. They supported her throughout her program, offering encouragement during challenging times and opportunities for growth during the good times. She really felt like they invested in her as a person, preparing her for the next steps in her life.
THE FULL CIRCLE MOMENT
Sara finished her degree in May of 2021. Later that year, ACF posted for a part time Administrative Assistant. In October of 2021, she was hired and became a full time employee in January 2022. Reflecting back, she remembered what winning her ACF student award had meant to her and was excited at the prospect of helping others in the same way. She also was interested in all the other ways that the Foundation works in community.
“There is so much we do here [at ACF], and being able to work for such an organization is very rewarding.”
Sara’s story didn’t just come full circle by working at ACF, she and her husband also created the Goetz Family Construction and Trades award. Shortly after beginning her role at ACF, they knew they wanted to support students pursuing trades. As the daughter of a machinist, the sister of a mechanic, and the wife of a carpenter, it was important for her to support those looking to fill essential roles in our communities.
“Being able to give a student the same feeling that I had when I received an award, is priceless.”
Each year, Sara and her husband get to review applications and provide a recommendation on the recipient. Her mom has also partnered with her on the fund, finding it very encouraging to read the applications and see what the young generation is striving towards.
Right now, Sara is enjoying her work with ACF but hopes one day to offer consulting services to other non-profits. She’s dedicated to making a difference in the sector and looks forward to seeing what the future has in store. Sara is grateful to her husband, who has supported her every step of the way, as well as her family, who have been by her side at every milestone. She’s also thankful to Wendy Neufeld, ACF’s previous Executive Director, who took a chance on her as a recent graduate with very little experience in the not-for-profit sector. Sara wouldn’t be where she is today without Wendy’s support.
Check out the details of the Student Awards Program here.