By: Morgan Letizia
WINCHESTER- Sarah Celec’s official title here at Shenandoah University is “Safety and Health Programs Coordinator”, but she has proven to be so much more than that.
Celec is the director of the [Not Just] Women Center, where she organizes sexual assault awareness and prevention events.
She is also a resource for confidential conversations, holds trainings for groups such as RA’s and DPS, and directs around 20 peer mentors at the [Not just] Women Center.
Whether Celec knew it at the time, her path to where she is now began in her 20s on the streets of New York, “There was an article in the newspaper for a sex workshop… I remember standing on the street corner and saying, “That would be an amazing job, I would love to do that kind of work in my lifetime.””
“Fast forward 20 years and I was asked to come do a job at the Brandt Student Center as a manager… About two weeks later there was a job posted for this position.” However, Celec didn’t obtain the position she has now until two years later.
“The person [originally] in my position had been gone for six to nine months at that time so I went to Sue O’Driscoll (Dean of Students) and asked if the position was still open and she hired me three weeks later.”
“My peer mentors are the best part of my job” Celec says “I love working with them and I love that they are passionate about what they’re doing. They’re dependable and they make my job really easy and fun.”
Celec means as much to her peer mentors as they mean to her. “Sarah is always willing to take time out her day for us and anyone that needs her” says Carmen Burbridge, a peer mentor.
When asked the worst part of this job Celec said, “That I have to do it, that there has to be a position to do this type of work. The worst part isn’t that it exists because sexual assault is happening, it’s because we don’t do comprehensive sex education in children. We don’t work from a young age to educate students on what consent is, so then we’re doing this catch up work when they’re adults.”
In a “perfect world”, without sexual assault, Celec says she would like her job to be more focused on sex positivity and owning your sexuality.
Celec does her best to remain hopeful and motivated to keep doing the work she does, finding a lot of this motivation in her young child.
“My hope is that I don’t hear any of the stories from my child that I hear from some of the students.” Celec says.
This job, as well as life itself, has taught Celec a lot of important things, when asked what it most valuable thing she has learned Celec says:
“I am exactly where I should be doing exactly what I should be doing and when that changes, it’s okay.”