Ms. Apio is the recipient of Opportunity Rising’s Leadership Award scholarship, an honor that acknowledges her passion for helping others, her courage for speaking up about difficult topics and her commitment to pursue her dreams and goals in art and design.
Receiving the Leadership Award took her by surprise, yet Sarah’s definition of a leader and her path so far show that she’s a bold example and inspiration for others on how one person can drive positive change.
“I believe a leader should be selfless and put other people’s needs first,” she says. “And also not afraid to do things that others are afraid of doing, like speaking up on topics that might be uncomfortable.”
Since fifth grade, Sarah has had a passion for art and design, with a focus on clothing design. As a girl she would comb her closet for creative combinations and new ways to express her individual style. “It just came naturally to me,” she says.
Today Ms. Apio is taking classes at the University of North Texas with a declared major in interdisciplinary art and design studies with a minor in design management and fashion merchandising. At first she was focused on becoming a fashion designer, but after her internship in jewelry design, she began to lean toward the business side of fashion so she can fully employ both her creativity and her talent for bringing the best out in others as well.
She’s excited to help guide designers in the creative process and to push them to excellence “to get their ideas out there for the world to see.”
She graduated in early summer 2020 from Lake Highland High School along with her twin brother, Shadrach. She learned about the scholarship from an email on her mom’s phone and took the initiative to complete the application process herself.
“I really needed the money for college. I also have a twin brother, so I knew it would be hard for my mom to afford both of us going to college,” Sarah says. “I really think the foundation is a great idea, it’s very helpful for families that aren’t able to afford college. Any amount of money is really helpful. I appreciate the foundation for that.”
Her family is from South Sudan and were refugees in Uganda before moving to the U.S. in 2003 when Sarah was just over a year old.
“My mom didn’t have the opportunity to get a college degree. She sacrificed a lot for us, and I feel I owe it to her to get a college degree and take advantage of the opportunities I have.”
In addition to fashion, Sarah is also passionate about helping people through challenges. One of the difficult topics she’d like to address is that in many cases sexual abuse victims aren’t seen or heard. She would like to create an organization to help people affected by abuse tell their stories without fear to encourage others to speak up to inspire both healing and social change.
At Lake Highland High School, community activities she was involved in included the group Teens Offering Peer Support, where members supported each other, discussed social issues and were active in community service initiatives.
She also volunteered for VNA’s Meals on Wheels and the Texas Food Bank through her leadership roles on the Student Council and National Honor Society.
Sarah and her friends also helped grow their school’s African Dance Team, making posters and encouraging others to join when attendance waned. She was co-captain of the team in her senior year, noting the group’s recruiting efforts transformed the group into the school’s favorite club dance team.
She advises high school students to take their futures into their own hands and to apply for scholarships like those from the Opportunity Rising Foundation “to just see what happens.”
“I didn’t expect to get the leadership scholarship. Take time to apply for these scholarships because they can amount to a great amount of reward,” Sarah says. “Really motivate yourself. I feel like if you have the mindset where you’re constantly pushing yourself, a lot of great things will happen.”