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March 22, 2019

Alumni Spotlight: Sara Berkemeier Bell ’12 (Social Work) Senatorial Legislative Aide

Sara Berkemeier Bell ’12 (Social Work) works as a Legislative Aide for the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C.  It’s a long way from her start at Elim Bible College and Roberts, but one that fits well with her social work training and her desire to help people and meet the needs of others.

Her life was changed at Roberts by professors like Dr. Dave Skiff, Professor Dave Haller, and Dr. Lori Sousa.   They taught her to be optimistic and to believe that anything is possible.  They challenged her to always be better and to improve her skills.  Dr. Sousa taught her a practical faith that she could apply to make her world better.

Sara writes, “If I had never had Lori as a professor, I wouldn’t be in D.C. today, and I wouldn’t have my job. Lori always brought all social work principals back to God in every class. I learned so much of how God practically fits into my life during her classes. She has this magical power that allows her find out what are the important values in her students and how she can draw them out. She is beyond intentional to connect and she saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself. There are three types of social work: micro, mezzo, and macro. Macro social work is community change - it’s big-picture social work. Lori was the first person who ever thought I should consider macro social work (which is what I consider my job on the Hill). Lori saw what I was good at and encouraged me to pursue my strengths without being limited by life circumstances. I’m so grateful Lori was my professor. I wouldn’t be who I am today if she had not been my mentor.”

As a Senatorial Legislative Aide Sara has personally written five bills and is using her advocacy skill to get them passed into law.  She worked as a primary therapist at Rochester Regional Health for over three years before moving to D.C.  She wants to use her social work experience to make policies that are person-centered and holistic.  Her passions are addressing social determinates, economic disparities, and risk factors that make life more difficult.

Sara’s work is personal too.  Her very first bill was a Medicare bill to address a problem with enrolling into the Medicare program.  Her father had issues enrolling because he was a farmer who owned his own small business.  He was treated differently by the law because of that.  After a year of researching the issue, Sara found a way to help other hard-working farmers and small business owners navigate this important health issue.

This has not been an easy experience.  It was a major step of faith to move to D.C.  After six long months of interviewing and unpaid internships, she was close to giving up and moving back home.  However, one day a lobbyist named Pete reached out to her.  Sara says, “The day I met Pete, he told me that he usually doesn’t meet interns for coffee.  When he got the email suggesting he meet me, he heard God speak to him telling him to meet me and tell me that God had a plan for my life and I was exactly where I needed to be.”  There were more interviews and disappointments to follow, but they eventually led to the position she has today and the fulfillment that comes from doing a job you know you are meant to do.


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