Sarah Hoppe Relyea '84

I am a native of Madison County, having grown up in the small Village of Canastota – previously known by the local Native Americans as "Kneistastota" – the Land of the Three Pines.
I attended K-12 in the Canastota School system, graduating in 1982 from Canastota Jr./Sr. High School. Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity and privilege to attend Cazenovia College after high school in part due to grants, scholarships, and a work study job at the college library. Upon completing an Associate in Arts in Liberal Arts, I then entered Utica College of SU and completed a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. My educational 'dream' was to then attend Cornell's Industrial and Labor Relations program, however, I fell in love with a Marine who my parents said "is not the right one for you" - which means of course I married shortly thereafter. Although the marriage ended due to domestic violence, I would not change it for a minute. Having raised two beautiful, talented and imaginative children as a single parent, I learned more about hard work, sacrifice, and personal strength than I could imagine. To this day, I still secretly dream about returning to school and having the capacity to enter a courtroom and deliberate for the under-dog causes that remain close to my heart.
I was blessed with an amazing set of parents who were old-fashioned enough to instill values, morals, and a good work ethic in me, however progressive enough to allow and encourage me to think outside the box, and ask those annoying questions to educators with the why's and why not's of just about everything. Although I never went without food, shelter or clothing, we were just "poor enough" for me to learn firsthand how the inequities of society can affect an individual and how this can alter your life's course.
At the ages of 10 and 11, I was walking dogs, babysitting and doing an occasional lawn mow or shoveling a driveway. Through middle school and then into high school I worked in gift shops, bussed tables, and waitressed. During summer breaks from college, I worked in a local potato and onion warehouse for several years and more waitressing. After college, my first (just get anything you can to find job) was as a bank teller…which I thoroughly hated and I have the utmost respect for those that perform that position to this very day! Next it was a youth employment counselor, then many years of employment with Madison County. I gradually worked my way through the social services system starting as a public assistance examiner, then case worker doing everything from foster care, preventive, certifying day care homes, and was the county’s first TASA worker when the Teenage Services Act first came into existence. I then moved into the probation department and spent the majority of 16 years as a Probation Officer then Senior PO.  At present, I am a Program Supervisor of Healthy Families of NY program in Madison County and proud to say that I work in and for the county in which I was raised.
It was my initial educational experiences at Cazenovia College; listening to and learning from the likes of Dolly Weiss, Dr. Roy, Norman Weitman, Fred Williams and Dr. Greene with WITC and the college newspaper which led me to catch the ‘learning bug’…..and I  hope I never ever lose it!! As everyone knows….there is no 'money' in social work, however, continuing to learn and work with the community in which I was raised and in some small way perhaps make a difference, truly makes me a wealthy woman.