An Advocate For Her Gender
Story by Michael Seguin
As a teenager, Sara Santarossa attended the Leadership Advancement for Women and Sport’s (LAWS) annual Girls in Motion Event, held at the University of Windsor and it had a profound impact on her life.
The program is designed to help young girls develop their physical literacy, wellness and most importantly, self-esteem.
In many ways, the Girls in Motion Event has dictated the trajectory of Sara’s—an Epidemiologist at Henry Ford Health Systems in Detroit with a PhD in Kinesiology—entire professional life.
“I’m still a member of LAWS,” Sara explains. “Five years ago, I was just a volunteer. Now, I’m sitting on the Board of Directors. Over the last five years, we’ve partnered with over 20 different community partners. Our members pay $10 a year, they receive various benefits from all these different organizations and all that money goes towards keeping our programming free of charge.”
Aside from LAWS, Sara has worked with various community organizations, including the Windsor Endowment for the Arts, Females Using Energy for Life, KidSport, Heart and Stroke and Windsor-Essex County YMCA.
A lifelong advocate for her gender, Sara’s PhD research topic examined the mother-daughter dyad, which included topics like self-esteem, body image, eating disorders and physical activity.
“With that research, I was in partnership with the Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association,” Sara states. “We launched some collaborate projects for the community. We offered workshops and toolkits for mothers. We examined how social media has influenced a lot of our health behaviors, and how they can be a positive role model for their daughters both on and offline.”
Sara’s findings are more important than ever, during the age of social media and unrealistic beauty standards.
“It was a very positive experience,” Sara explains. “Afterwards, we asked our participants what their overall level of confidence was before and after the workshops. Everyone’s increased! We had a foster parent come up to us after one workshop we did. She actually sought out more information from us. I thought that was really great!”
Continue reading for the original story we ran on Sara which appeared
in the Anniversary 2014 Edition of Windsor Life Magazine:
Connecting With A Sisterhood Of Inspiration
Story by Karen Paton-Evans
Photography by LiquidWild Media
With eating disorders on the rise among younger females and women becoming increasingly self-critical about their own bodies, it is encouraging to encounter a local University of Windsor graduate who is helping girls and young women get motivated and get moving in healthy, positive ways.
Sara Santarossa has been involved with the University’s Girls in Motion day camps for children aged six years and older. The summer program introduces campers to the components of physical activity that allow for the development of the body, mind and spirit.
They learn the basics of heart health, nutrition, muscle ability, flexibility and body image, while getting beneficial exercise through dance, self defense, Pilates, yoga and swimming.
All of this forms a good foundation for a balanced life and authentic beauty.
Sara Santarossa: Xtreme Volunteer
An advocate for her gender, Sara applies her research from Girls in Motion workshops to better understand how to encourage participation in healthy physical activity.
She is also part of the Females Using Energy for Life (FUEL) program, which aims to encourage high school female students in developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a positive mindset on body image.
FUEL is a partnership between the University of Windsor’s human kinetics faculty, the Windsor Essex County Health Unit and both local school boards. Sara and other kinesiology students and public health nurses go to high schools and invite girls to participate in yoga, Pilates, dance, circuit training and other non-competitive physical activity. The public health nurses give nutrition tips.
Seeing firsthand how the efforts of caring volunteers can make beneficial differences, Sara lends a helping hand wherever she can. She hopes her contributions will help the community while evolving her understanding of herself. Experience gained through volunteerism is helping equip Sara with skills needed to advocate for people less fortunate.
Her first appreciation of the real struggles hiding in Windsor Essex County came through volunteering with the YMCA. Sara witnessed five siblings sharing a single slice of bread during lunchtime at a summer program. “They never complained and they took care of one another before themselves,” she recalls. Next day, Sara’s family donated lunch for the children.