“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”
As the world recognizes International Women’s Day on March 8 to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, we honor the strong ladies that have been raised by and are raising the next generation of female trailblazers. As more families have settled Tampa Bay in the last few years from all over the globe, it’s important to make space for those mothers that have come here for a better life for themselves and their children. One such matriarch made the move from Puerto Rico 20 years ago, and immediately introduced her daughter to the local centers where thrived, received language instruction and found work. Today, Sara Roman carries on the legacy of her mother as a strong local woman who now looks out for every family as she has remained close to the very same centers that helped her acclimate to life in Tampa Bay as a young adult. A true visionary for a more vibrant community, Roman’s story is a celebration for all women everywhere.
JT: The story of your mother’s strength despite her health issues is one that moves me. There is no question she would be so proud of you today. In what ways have you carried on her legacy with your own children?
My mom had a heart of gold! Being the only girl, my mother was very protective of me even though her health was failing. She made sure I was taken care of and was supportive of my wishes and goals from a very early age. If there was a program or class I wanted to be a part of, she provided. She was always very open and forthcoming about her health and showed her vulnerability with my brother and me. I will always remember her as honest, kind, and respectful to everyone she met. It is important to me that my children, Isaac and Kamila, grow to be strong, respectful, empathetic and true to themselves just like my mother was.
JT: One of the first things you did when you moved to Tampa from Puerto Rico was immerse yourself in the culture to become more proficient with the English language. In what ways do you still honor your culture here, and how has that experience allowed you to help others that are new to the United States?
Moving to Tampa in 2003 at 19 years old was not planned. So, we ended up in a 55+ mobile home park on Nebraska Avenue while my mother waited for a liver transplant. Every single one of our neighbors were white people from up north. The culture shock was overwhelming. I learned the hard way—without a smartphone or Google translate software apps. I got a housekeeping job, a Sunday Tampa Tribune subscription and a dictionary, and that was the extent of my ESOL training. I love being in the USA, but there is no question that I am a Puerto Rican Latina; the traditional culture of where I am from is truly a part of my essence. The accent definitely gives it away too! But I can say that I have always felt welcome, and I have been so lucky to get back to work where my journey started in 2003 in the University Area. It is an honor to serve others in the community, especially in my native language, while doing what I love as an Outreach Coordinator. Connecting to people is a language in itself.
JT: You have dedicated your life to service and being a servant leader. Why is this, and what keeps you motivated on the most challenging and thankless days?
I interact with people daily and some weight sets in after I provide outreach efforts. I can relate to many situations that families face daily, and it is my duty to connect mothers, grandparents, teens, and others in the community to different resources available to them. Motivation is key to lifting others’ spirits. I know exactly how it feels to be broken, frustrated, and uncertain of what is going to happen to me or afraid of what could go wrong. I personally had to go through so many challenging phases in my adult life, but every day I wake up with the intent to be meaningful in my own testimony that all challenges come with a solution. I am very determined when offering insight in a situation where someone is at a low because I know I am meant to be there for them in that moment, and they are helping me live my purpose.
JT: In addition to the roles you have had with the Veteran’s Administration, Americorps, and now University Area CDC, you are also an entrepreneur. Tell us about your business and the clients you serve.
We live in an era where entrepreneurship is possible, and if you are a woman you can achieve anything! I founded iCommunity Multiservices in my senior year at Springfield College in 2012 as a project to provide wellness education to the community. I was living inside a church, so I interacted with church members weekly and started providing services to translate Birth Certificates from Spanish to English, draft school letters for parents, etc. After attending workshops and mastering my expertise as alternative access to legal services, iCommunity flourished in 2017 and continues to grow to this day.
JT: The March 8 date is significant as it is International Women’s Day (IWD), but it is also your work anniversary with University Area Community Development Corporation (CDC). In what ways are you able to directly support women in your role at University Area CDC? What programs are available there to help all women overcome bias and find spaces that are more equitable?
I always say that March 8 is the birthday of every woman who has advocated, fought, marched and defended the rights of women. It is also my work anniversary at University Area CDC, and I look forward to it! I am very involved in the programs and events that are hosted at University Area Community Center, and I am proud of the upcoming workshop just for women “Free Your Mind” Stress Management Training on March 2 and 9 from 5-7 p.m.. The eligible criteria for this is to be a caregiver of a child that is a newborn and up to 8 years of age. All women can relate to the importance of being present, able, and capable to care for our little ones, but sometimes 24 hours a day is not enough time to carry all the commitments we have.
JT: In what ways can the Tampa Bay community support your efforts at University Area Community Center?
The best way the Tampa Bay community can support our efforts for the people we serve and the programs we host at University Area CDC is to visit our website to learn more about what we do. There, under “Community Engagement,” there are different ways anyone can become involved through volunteer opportunities or even donations. These things help all of us.
JT: What is your favorite thing to do with your family in Tampa Bay?
I have a hectic schedule, so my children know that family time is sacred. We enjoy late Sunday afternoon picnics at Seaplane Park on Davis Island where we can watch the sailboats, play ball and collect shells. In the summer, we love to watch the sunset on Clearwater Beach.
Originally Published in March 2022