Many of us know our good friends and neighbors, Jim and Gail Drebes, and have more than likely met their lovely daughter Sarah. Sarah is a special person, doing special work, making an impact in young people’s lives in Culpeper, Virginia. The following story is written by Allison Brophy, and is reprinted with permission from Ms. Brophy and the Champion/Star-Exponent.
Sara Drebes recently realized that she really enjoys helping others feel empowered.
“With young people, a lot of that is helping them come into themselves,” said the youth case manager at Rappahannock Goodwill Industries in Culpeper. “I have a quiet leadership style,” Drebes added, “and I think that lends itself to others feeling empowered.”
For her work helping area youth find jobs and in the process, purpose, 37-year-old Drebes was recently named the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce Young Professional of the Year.
“Wow. I am really honored and surprised and encouraged to be up here right now,” she said in accepting the award earlier this month.
Over the past two years, Drebes has helped 88 young people find jobs in the community through the federal Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act youth program, according to Marty Bywaters-Baldwin, workforce center manager at Rappahannock Goodwill in Culpeper.
The initiative provides paid internships and workforce training for those aged 16 to 24 experiencing barriers to employment such as a disability, criminal background, lack of a high school diploma, being pregnant or a parent, in foster care, homeless, runaway or low-income. The program is for residents of Culpeper, Fauquier, Orange, Madison and Rappahannock counties, and through it, Drebes has seen many young people successfully placed in temporary positions that became permanent.
Bywaters-Baldwin lauded her for the good work accomplished.
“Sara is bright, creative, and has an uncanny way to connect with young adults – especially those who haven’t experienced success in life,” he said. “She is exactly the kind of Young Professional that Culpeper can (and needs) to attract—one who uses her global travels and extensive skills to lay the groundwork for our next generation of diverse and innovative leaders.”
A former educator, Drebes taught English as a Second Language in the Dominican Republic and also worked with Young Life – with which she is still associated – before shifting careers to Rappahannock Goodwill about two years ago.
In addition to her work with Goodwill, Drebes co-founded – with Verdun Adventure Bound – the Groundwork Project that encourages youth to develop leadership skills, build teamwork and establish careers through adventure-bound learning and experiential education. More than a dozen local young people recently completed the first eight-week session of the program and two more sessions are in the works.
Drebes said she enjoys collaborating with likeminded individuals and groups in the community, especially those just starting out.
“I enjoy working with young people a lot,” she said. “It kind of fills me up.”