Health and Medicine People and Community

Karma a driving force for senior

Sarah Petit won the Toppel Career Center’s #BreakThru Award for her commitment to overcoming obstacles.
Sarah Petit
Sarah Petit recently won the #BreakThru Award from the Toppel Career Center.

For years Sarah Petit, the daughter of Haitian-born émigrés, has been volunteering at camps and shelters in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, working with people who were sick, wounded, or displaced by violence.

Petit, a University of Miami senior who will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health from the School of Nursing and Health Studies and a minor in Sport Administration, developed her love of public health in those camps while helping her aunt, who is a nurse in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince. Her goal is to become a medical doctor and carry out scientific research.

“My drive to help comes from the belief that I would want someone to do this for me if I was in the same situation,” she said. “I believe in karma: What goes around, comes around.”

Her drive to help has extended itself to her years at the U. In the past, she has volunteered her time to several groups. She is active in First Star University of Miami Academy, a program by the School of Law and School of Education and Human Development that brings adopted and foster high school students to campus.

The youngsters receive college prep classes to get them ready for the four years ahead, as well as life skills classes. Many of them are first generation college students. Petit, who is also a first-generation student, knows the obstacles many of them face.

“All of us counselors have experience working with minority students or those who come from less privileged backgrounds,” she said. “My parents did not go to college so as a first-generation student I explain to them how I made it so they can also succeed.”  

During her years at the University, Petit worked with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA). Christopher Clarke, assistant dean for Belonging and Inclusion at the School of Law, and former director of the MSA, was a mentor to Petit.

“She is a rock star,” he said. He met her in 2020 at an event Planet Kreyol, the Haitian student organization, put together in remembrance of the victims of the 2010 Haitian earthquake. He was impressed by her willingness to help others.

“She is brilliant,” Clarke said. “She is one of the most intelligent young people that I have met, but she is very subtle. Her mind is very complex, and she thinks about problems but with solutions in mind.”

Petit was the chair of this year’s Students of Color Symposium, titled “The Time is Now," which carried the theme of advocacy.

“Our message was that anyone can be an advocate for a cause,” she said. “This is a presidential election year, so we talked about the power of the vote and taught students how to vote and get information on the candidates.”

The symposium also brought as a keynote speaker, indigenous environmental advocate Xiye Bastida, who is 21 years old and has been listed in TIME100 Next as a phenomenon.

“Hearing from someone so young and close to our age really had an impact on the students,” she said.

For her outstanding extracurricular work, Petit recently received the #BreakThru Award from the Toppel Career Center. The award is presented to an individual, student, organization, faculty, or employer, who has demonstrated—through a program, initiative, event, or their breakthrough—a commitment to overcoming obstacles for themselves and/or for others.

Petit also lists research as one of her passions. As an Adobe Scholar, she is researching the effects of amputations on minority men. She was interested in the topic after one of her brothers lost an arm in an accident, she said.

Adobe Scholars receive specialized training from experts associated with the Creative Studio to create an audiovisual and/or multimedia project, and serve as consultants to other University students who use Adobe Creative Cloud and other related tools and software. The program is sponsored through an endowment provided by Adobe Systems Inc. On April 22 at 4 p.m., University Libraries will host a celebration of the Adobe Scholars in their third-floor conference room.