Sara Continenza currently serves as director of community relations and operations for local non-profit Food Conscious and as Ward 3 Councilwoman for the city of South Euclid. In this interview the 2014 MPA graduate of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs discusses her time at Cleveland State University, her career path and what inspires her.
Why did you decide to attend CSU?
I have heard many good things about the faculty, who are dedicated public professionals with a wide variety of experience and knowledge about urban affairs.
How did your experience influence your career path?
My network grew exponentially as a result of my schooling. Additionally, this experience, in tandem with my professional work in the nonprofit sector, gave me the knowledge and insight to drive my career in public health and politics.
What's your favorite CSU memory?
In one of our classes, we had to go out and interview nonprofit leaders about their work and their organizations. The leader I interviewed called me for an interview soon after and became my boss!
What piece of advice do you have for current students?
Don't be afraid of trading security for freedom to pursue your dreams. Take that leap! While it may be more of a challenge in many respects, it will ultimately pay off. Dedicate your life to your passion, and the pieces will fall together beautifully.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned at CSU?
While it's important to have knowledge, it's even more essential to have a vast network of people to work with and learn from.
What inspires you about Northeast Ohio?
I love the diversity here in Northeast Ohio. The variety of people, experiences, ethnic origins, races, and other identifications make it really exciting to live here. I enjoy going to urban festivals and looking around and seeing every color of the rainbow enjoying life together. It's a beautiful thing, and rarer than you would think!
In your opinion, what is Northeast Ohio’s best kept secret?
Our local arts scene. From our world class art museums, to our underground dance events, craft fairs, unique art galleries, and youth-focused arts programming-we certainly have something for everyone! Our summers here are like one giant vacation with all of the weekly festivals and concerts.
What is one thing someone would be surprised to learn about you?
I have lived in four countries, I have visited 21 countries, and I speak 3 languages.
What issues are you passionate about?
Local foods and products. We need to get back to local foods, know our farmers, and know what is in the things we put on and in our bodies. Growing and producing our own foods, supporting local businesses, and working with, not against, nature will help us to create sustainability.
Who is your hero and why?
My grandmother, Peggy Wisner Meldrum. In the 1940s, with no college degree, when most women stayed in the home, she became the first woman to work on a newspaper in the entire state. She worked as a photographer for the Cleveland Press, and later the Plain Dealer. She was a single mother for many years and raised my beautiful, compassionate mother whose career as a social worker inspired me to pursue a life helping others. When I was a child, my grandmother ran both Town Hall of Cleveland and the Cleveland Blue Book out of her house, on her own, with no computer. She was driven and showed me that I could do anything I set my mind to.
To learn more about Sara and other CSU students and alumni, visit https://www.csuohio.edu/urban/profiles/levin-college-profiles.