Award Honorees

Sarah Larsson '08​​

To say that Sarah Larsson's high school experience was well-rounded might be an understatement. In addition to a rigorous academic schedule, Sarah was deeply engaged in music programs, including choir and band, where she played in the MHS Wind Ensemble and was the student director for the Brass Ensemble. She also served as librarian for the band department, and gained notoriety around the high school as "Book Club Girl," thanks to her work as a spokesperson for this student club. Her second major love was a service program called Reach Out Volunteers. The program focused on random acts of kindness and was her first introduction to international issues. Sarah found some of her most significant teaching and learning moments at Minnetonka were through these special projects.

Further preparing her for her future in a global society, Sarah credits her International Baccalaureate (IB) classes as being one of the best aspects of her high school education.

"The teachers were focused on creativity and the exploration of history. I was encouraged to think for myself and it was so liberating and exciting," explains Sarah.

After graduating from Minnetonka in 2008, Sarah attended Yale University where she majored in Anthropology. Her goal was, and is, to be "a positive influence in the world though working with and understanding individual people and their distinct cultures and beliefs." During her time at Yale, she had the opportunity to travel to Kenya in partnership with one of the organizations she had helped raise money for while at Minnetonka.

"The experience made everything more real for me. These were real people, they became my friends, and I was invested in their destiny in the same way I was invested in my own."

While in college, Sarah started singing in the Yale Slavic Chorus. This was a great continuation and expansion from her music background at MHS and sparked a passion for folk music. Sarah continues to sing professionally in a nationally-touring group called the Nightingale Trio, which explores the stories of women from Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

After graduating from Yale with both a Bachelors and Masters, Sarah received a research fellowship in the Twin Cities with the African Development Center. Minneapolis is a large hub for East African communities and she was excited to find ways to support this community in Minnesota. This initial fellowship eventually led to her current role as the Outreach and Development Director for the Somali Museum of Minnesota.

"Every day I am proud and honored to be working in a community that has such beauty and richness. East Africans in Minnesota also encounter intense challenges but, the realities of life for people aren't recognized outside the borders of the community. Most of what you see in the media about Somalia is pirates, famine, terrorism and war. Yet there are over 40,000 people with Somali roots living right here as our neighbors. I see this community being appropriated into an issue of so much political division and misunderstanding, and so little tolerance for the real people's humanity. When I think about my work, this could all easily become very paralyzing, but at the Somali Museum I work with inspiring people with clear visions for our greater community. I am learning so much and so deeply. I feel very lucky to be in this uncommon position and I hope to help bridge some of these gaps though my work."

When asked what advice she would give new graduates, Sarah encourages people to think more about the person you want to be and the impact you want to have in the world and less about what others expect of you.

"Being outside the box is great. Creative and big-picture ideas are what make other people get up out of their chairs to join you. Pursue what you want to learn, even—especially—if you don't know anyone else doing it."


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