Meet: Sara Schindler, Executive Director, Boys Hope Girls Hope
Sara Schindler followed a 15-year career as a stay-at-home mom with a 13-year career in sales and human services at Procter & Gamble. Through it she balanced family, work, and volunteering for her parish, her children’s schools, and several charities, often putting her financial and planning skills to work there as well. As 2010 director of St. Xavier High School’s annual X-Travaganza, she helped raise nearly $1 million for the school. Now the Finneytown resident and St. Vivian parishioner is combining her work skills and her love of service in one job: as the new executive director of Boys Hope Girls Hope Cincinnati.
Sara says the most important thing she learned in her first few months at the 30-year-old organization, which helps academically gifted, at-risk children through elementary schoo, high school, and college, is how much difference one person can make. “I am in awe of the residential counselors who are living in the houses 24/7,” she says. “I know how tiring it is, as I was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years. And I only had three children! Staff counselors have eight children in a home. They unselfishly give their love, patience, and support to create a family environment that these scholars have not had in their lives. Everyone works so hard and I know it’s not because they are receiving financial rewards but because they sincerely care.”
Children in the BHBG program are called “scholars,” never “clients.” They live in residential neighborhoods, attend Catholic schools, and participate in sports and other extracurriculars, service, worship, jobs, and internships as they learn to become “men and women for others.” Although they live away from home, their families continue to be involved in their lives. “BHGH has its roots with the Jesuits, and specifically St. Xavier High School,” Schindler says. “This organization is a natural fit for me, because of the connection with the Jesuits, St. X, and helping children — all of which are very important to me.”
Every scholar, she says, has overcome great odds in his or her young life. “Each journey is inspirational due to BHGH coming into their lives. Every day I see God’s work. I have met so many wonderful people, volunteers and staff alike who humble me by their faith and dedication. Then of course, the children inspire me everyday with their strength and resiliency. Their willingness to sacrifice and work hard to achieve is powerful and is a constant reminder of the power of faith and love.”
The BHGH program is expensive to operate, Schindler says. “Changing lives long-term takes a lot of hard work and financial support, as we provide this support through college. The goal isn’t to graduate from a college preparatory high school, but to graduate from college.” She wants people to know that their contributions to BHGH change lives — and communities. “The investment made in these students is returned a thousand fold when they are adults and giving back to the community,” she says. “Our scholars understand and appreciate the opportunity they have been given. They are not only active community service volunteers while in the program — they continue this pledge to give back and help others throughout their adult life.”
They’re off to a good start in 2012. The recent Hearts for Hope Gala, the organization’s annual black tie fundraiser, sold a record 450 tickets and raised more than $150,000 — the largest amount in the event’s 20-year history.
“We are thrilled to have Sara leading Boys Hope Girls Hope,” says David W. Conway, chair of the BHGH Board of Directors. “Her experience in development, marketing and youth programming will help take our organization to the next level.”