Born to Tell

Sarah's story

A certificate scholarship gives one student the chance to forge a new career path

Sarah Wildsmith is a born storyteller.

“I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember,” said Wildsmith, the author of Princess Charming, a children’s book about two princesses who fall in love. “I just love stories. I love telling stories, and that’s what I like about marketing: it’s telling stories — in tinier portions.”

Sarah discovered her passion for marketing several years ago while working as an office administrator. She’d had the opportunity to write company emails or one-off communications but nothing more substantial.

When her boss needed something written ASAP, Sarah jumped into action and got the job done — and soon found herself writing the company’s brochures, web copy and employee bios. Before she knew it, Sarah had added handling the firm’s social media channel to her portfolio, all with no background in marketing or public relations.

“When I found that I really loved marketing, it was a ‘Eureka!’ moment,” Sarah said.

After a move to another office administration role with a different company, however, Sarah felt as if she was starting from scratch.

“After that, every job I started I knew I wanted to elbow my way into that position again,” Sarah said. “I would keep finding ways to be like, ‘Well, you know what we could do…’”  

Sarah has once again elbowed her way into marketing, this time with Kaspar’s Catering, but she’s established herself enough to earn the title of marketing coordinator — one she’s very proud of.

“I really like to see my email signature that says ‘marketing coordinator’ underneath it,” Sarah said. “It’s just this little sense of pride that I take from it.”

But to ensure that she can stay in marketing and flourish in a dynamic field, Sarah knew that she needed more than elbow grease. She needed an education in marketing.

“It’s one thing to be able to push your way in there, and sometimes I feel like I’m still pushing away,” she said. “But having something to back up what I’m doing, to be able to go anywhere I want, is like writing my own ticket.

Back to School

Sarah didn’t determine what form her “ticket” would take until a coworker — herself a graduate of the UW Certificate in Nonprofit Management — told Sarah to check out the UW Certificate in Digital Marketing.

“I started looking into it, and I was like, ‘This is everything I want,’” Sarah said. “It’s what I was looking for exactly.”

The certificate program provides Sarah with a chance to restart her education; her struggles with bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety made school nearly impossible for a long time.

“With the help of the right medication and therapy, I am finally getting control of my life back,” Sarah said. “But at the same time I don’t have the education that most of my peers do. I was unable to finish high school; I had to get my GED. And then I attempted college twice and both times was unable to complete that too.”

Sarah sees the certificate program as a chance to reset her career and embrace marketing as her true vocation.

“It’s this chance to actually get to pursue something I never had the chance to — to actually make a place for myself,” she said.

A Scholarship Makes All the Difference

Sarah also felt stuck in entry-level positions for more practical reasons: Seattle’s sky-high (and rising) cost of living and a full-time job that left no hours or dollars for education.

“I thought, OK, well, I’m going to be doing this for the rest of my life because it’s not like I had the extra time or the extra money to go to school and start over,” she said. “I work for a living — I have to pay the bills. I have to pay my rent. School felt like a luxury that I just couldn’t do.”

School went from a luxury to a reality for Sarah because of the UW Certificate Scholarship Fund, which, in its second year, awarded Sarah and 11 other students a scholarship for a UW certificate program.

“I’m so excited about the scholarship because without it I wouldn’t be able to do this,” Sarah said. “The ability to actually go to school again, and I know it’s going to be hard and a lot of work, but not having to sit there and go, ‘Do I pay my tuition this month or do I pay my bills?’ is so exciting to me.”

Sarah knows that she has plenty to learn about marketing beyond storytelling, and the UW Certificate in Digital Marketing will give her the opportunity to do so.

 “The fact that I got this scholarship, it’s like a dream come true,” Sarah said. “I’m just really thrilled.”

You can help open the door to opportunity for other students like Sarah.