Meet us Monday: Sarah, Founder & Director

For this week’s Meet Us Monday, we have Dr. Sarah Scarbrough, our fearless leader! Sarah is the Founder and Director of REAL LIFE, which was founded in 2016 after she worked at the Richmond Jail for nearly 10 years. Although growing up, her dream was to be a dolphin trainer, God had other plans. Who knows, maybe one day, instead of working with humans, she will find herself working with dolphins!

It was during Sarah’s first 5 years at the Jail where she worked as a researcher in pursuit of her Ph.D. After finishing her Ph.D. at Virginia Commonwealth University in Public Policy with a concentration in Criminal Justice, she became the full-time Program Director at the Jail for a subsequent 5 years. Sarah says, “I developed a strong passion for this work because I realized really how important this is and how many limited resources there were out there. I realized I could become a piece of the puzzle that was needed.” Two years after beginning the program in the Richmond Jail, in 2016, she decided to move REAL LIFE into the community as a way to help with reentry services. She filed the paperwork with the IRS and on it went.

In less than 5 years, REAL LIFE has grown exponentially. For the first 2 years, there was no full-time staff, so the organization has truly grown in such a short period of time. Sarah says she is “very honored at the trust we have developed within Richmond. That is what has enabled us to grow so quickly because we have support from the community.”

As Director, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day operations of REAL LIFE, including staff oversight, strategic implementation of programs, growth of the organization, fundraising, community relationships, client relationships, and outreach–wow! With these responsibilities, Sarah says that her key to maintaining balance is focusing on her own self-care. Working with folks with very heavy backgrounds can be emotionally-taxing, and she says it’s “important to have thick skin because this work is hard and very fast-moving.” In a helping role like Sarah’s, she and her staff devote their all, so it’s difficult when not everyone sees their full potential while going through the program. Yet it is those that do, that keeps each of us going daily.

While maintaining self-care, Sarah says, for people who are looking to enter this field of work, it’s quite important to get your feet wet and volunteer with organizations. It is the best way to meet clients and network with professionals in the field. Prior to working in the Richmond Jail, Sarah spent time volunteering in this realm of work at various non-profit organizations, planned a lot of various events, and had experience in fundraising — and these experiences ultimately contributed to the birth of REAL LIFE!

When Sarah is not working, she absolutely loves spending time in the sun, particularly on the beach, with palm trees. She also stays pretty busy chasing around her 3 young children (and her husband).

By founding REAL LIFE, Sarah has helped so many people find their true potential to thrive and succeed. She says she has gotten very effective at handling crises and meeting people from all sorts of backgrounds. Truly, we could not function at REAL LIFE without Sarah’s passion and commitment to the program.