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Sarah Elizabeth Garza-Levitt BSW’19 MSW’21

PhD Student, College of Social Work

“I left home when I was 13 and lived on the streets of Seattle. When I was 15, I became pregnant, and staff at a youth center asked me if I wanted to speak to a group of doctoral students studying adolescent pregnancy. That was my first exposure to college education, and I decided back then that one day, that would be me.

When I was 16, I moved to Utah to live with my half-sister. I got my GED and started at Salt Lake Community College. For the next 23 years I had ups and downs of dropping out and losing my financial aid, but I kept coming back.

I tried out several different classes and majors, but when I read the Social Work Code of Ethics, tears streamed down my face. I knew right then, ‘I am a social worker.’ A social worker connected me to my half-sister who took me in when I was pregnant. Another had saved my life when I had a suicide attempt at the age of 11. She asked me why I wanted to end my life, and I realized I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t want to continue to suffer.

I’m now celebrating 15 years of sobriety, recently graduated with my Master of Social Work, and am pursuing my PhD at the U. My life is a testament to how stability and the ability to focus and have basic needs met can really nourish people to succeed and thrive academically. That’s why I’m so excited to be involved in launching the Basic Needs Collective to help provide U students resources related to food security, affordable housing, health insurance, and more.”


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  1. Being a colleague of Sarah Elizabeth, I have been honored to work with such a passionate individual. Sarah Elizabeth is a champion for rights and social justice for all people. Beyond her incredible story, Sarah Elizabeth, while working in the College of Health (COH), has been instrumental in improving the cultural climate in all classrooms, served as co-chair for the COH, organized and managed food pantry for students, has been an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community through arranging training for the COH faculty and staff, and several other contributions toward social justice that I’m sure I’m leaving out. Sarah Elizabeth is amazing.

  2. An amazing scholar and colleague—Sarah Elizabeth has and will continue to mark remarkable contributions!

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