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The Office of Public Health Practice Alumni Spotlight Series: Sara Paracha, BSPH, M.S.W.

Sara Paracha, BSPH, M.S.W., 2014 graduate of Saint Louis University and the current Director of Development at North Side Community School in St. Louis, Missouri recently did a Q&A with the OPHP about public health and learning at SLU.

OPHP: What was the most important thing you learned at SLU, and how has it shaped your career path?

SP: The opportunities I had...being involved in student groups on campus, like the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, working as a team, leading teams, putting on events...those experiences transitioned to soft skills needed in the workforce. We had service requirements, and I always worked with youth serving organizations. I also participated in conducting two research studies at SLU - tobacco cessation in the Emergency Department, and successful aging after mid-life for immigrants. I took what I was learning in the classroom and put it into practice. I always wanted to work with youth and behavioral health, but I was not sure in what capacity. Experiences at SLU allowed me to explore.

Tell us about your current role and how public health fits in?
I am a fundraiser and help organizations meet their revenue goals by grant writing, organizing special events and working with foundations, corporations and individuals. Between this job and my prior work at a local Boys and Girls Club, I've helped raise over $4 million dollars to support children and families. I use my public health experience particularly in grant writing by focusing on a holistic approach to promote positive youth development and foster healthy choices.

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Sara Paracha, BSPH, M.S.W., 2014 graduate of Saint Louis University and the current Director of Development at North Side Community School.

What is your best advice for public health students?
It’s important to network. Oftentimes it’s about who you know, not what you know. Having a good work ethic and being a team player go a long way. Also, take the time to learn from and about the community that you are serving. And remember that you always have something to offer, no matter where you are in your career.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 or 10 years? How will your BSPH help you get there?
In the near future I would like to lead a youthserving non-profit. My degree and past experiences have helped build a good foundation for my career, particularly with understanding the multiple pillars of positive youth development. I still look back on my research and experiences at SLU that have helped shape my career, and I continue to be involved in research projects at local universities. Long term, I would like to be involved with an organization focused on behavioral health with an emphasis on children and families.

Sara's Public Health Perspective:
"Public health isn’t just education, research or providing services. It’s also addressing access, breaking barriers, and creating systems level change -- a health system that is more equitable."

College for Public Health and Social Justice

The Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice is the only academic unit of its kind, studying social, environmental and physical influences that together determine the health and well-being of people and communities. It also is the only accredited school or college of public health among nearly 250 Catholic institutions of higher education in the United States.

Guided by a mission of social justice and focus on finding innovative and collaborative solutions for complex health problems, the College offers nationally recognized programs in public health, social work, health administration, applied behavior analysis, and criminology and criminal justice.