James ‘22 Sparks Joy for Herself, Others, through Service

by St. Andrew's Communications Staff
When Sasha James ‘22 isn’t challenging herself with Advanced Placement courses, playing for our championship girls basketball team, or sharing her insights as a CTTL Finn Family Student Research Fellow, she is volunteering her time and supporting causes that inspire her.
As she learned about the food shortages around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, Sasha James ’22 was compelled to act. In the summer of 2020, she teamed up with her sister Sophia ‘20 and a fellow basketball player from Sidwell to organize a free-throw fundraiser benefiting World Central Kitchen. The initiative ultimately raised $15,000 in donations.

This drive to serve and support is just who James is. Helping others, she said, is one her greatest sources of joy, one she has cultivated throughout her time at St. Andrew’s by engaging in school life as a student ambassador, varsity basketball player, and CTTL Finn Family Student Research Fellow, but also as a volunteer with Solutions in Hometown Connections (SHC) and a student employee with Communities United Against Hate (CUAH).

“’Be the change you wish to see in the world’ – I think that’s the best way to put it,” the Cum Laude Society member said. “Living in D.C., we’re just surrounded by news and politics.  That has made me feel that I really want to be able to do something about the things I’m seeing.” 

“I just really felt impassioned to make changes myself, even if they are minuscule, on a national or international scale. Just do whatever little things I can.”

For the past four years, James has tutored refugee children as a volunteer with SHC, a Prince George’s County-based non-profit organization that supports refugees and immigrants settling in the Washington, D.C., area. Most recently, James has worked with Afghani refugees who are adjusting to school and life in the United States. 

“Sometimes I stop and I’m like, ‘I can tell this girl has really made progress. I can tell she’s garnering her own skills, and she’ll be more prepared in her life now,’” she said. “Maybe she’ll raise her hand one or two more times in school. Maybe she’ll find the confidence to speak up more in her workplace and relationships, and be able to contribute to others, which is really impactful. It inspires me.”

Communities United Against Hate is a network of diverse organizations and individuals that combat bigotry, support victims of hate, and promote inclusiveness in Montgomery County. For the past year, James has worked as a paid special projects coordinator, supporting CUAH’s marketing and website design, as well as helping to organize community gatherings. Part of her role involves supporting a program called Youth Creating Change, which awards grants to students and helps them implement initiatives at their schools to combat hate and bigotry. James recently accepted a position on the CUAH Board of Directors, the first and only student to serve in that position.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” James said. “To be able to make an impact, even in my small community, has been really exciting.”

James said that St. Andrews’ emphasis on service learning has helped her be a more conscientious volunteer in her work with diverse populations.

“Coming to St. Andrew’s with the Service Learning class, with the Justice class, with the environment and service themes within Chapel, it’s been a good environment for me to continue that passion of mine,” James said.

Participating in hands-on service work with her classmates at regional homeless shelters and the Capital Area Food Bank has also helped James develop the interpersonal skills that help her be successful at SHC and CUAH.

“I think St. Andrew’s has really been a good environment for learning how to work with people who are not of the same background as you.”

In college, James is considering studying international relations and environmental studies – two disciplines that she said tie back to her intrinsic motivation to serve.

“I think there are so many different variations of joy that humans can experience, and arguably the most unique one is helping other people,” James said. “Everyone has been in a position where they are at a disadvantage or the odd man out. Knowing that and having empathy for other people is a really important quality to develop.”

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St. Andrew’s Episcopal School is a private, coeducational college preparatory day school for students in preschool (Age 2) through grade 12, located in Potomac, Maryland.