St. George's Today
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Sallie Martin '10
Sallie Martin (right), with sister and St. George's alum, Addie Martin '13
What year did you graduate from St. George’s?
Where did you go to college?
I attended Rhodes College for two years as an international studies and economics double major. In Fall 2012, I transferred to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK), graduating in 2015 with a B.S. in retail, hospitality, and tourism management, and a minor in business.
Where do you live and what is your profession?
I currently live in Knoxville and work as the special events coordinator at Zoo Knoxville. I plan major annual fundraising events, similar to “Zoo Brew,” “Zoo Rendezvous,” and “Zoo Boo” at the Memphis Zoo.
Did you ever envision doing this when you were at St. George’s?
Definitely not. When I was at St. George’s I never knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. One day I wanted to be an actress, the next a journalist, always changing my mind. But I felt prepared to take on any task life presented me. Having an open mind and taking advantage of opportunities as they were presented led me to work for some incredible companies, gain incomparable experience, and apply my St. George's holistic education—which made me qualified for this position by the age of 25!
How did St. George’s prepare you for college, career, and life?
St. George’s prepared me to approach everything with an open mind and inquisitive nature, and fostered my natural curiosity for the world. I was always challenged in a new and different way, which has prepared me to accept and conquer any and all challenges life can throw at me.
Tell us about a time in college or the workplace where you felt better prepared due to your St. George’s experience.
I that remember transferring to UTK from Rhodes was a huge cultural shock for me. I was used to small class sizes. I will never forget my first day at UTK, walking into a 300+ student lecture hall! Over the course, I had a few incidents that required me to communicate with my professor. I told some of my friends that I was emailing and conversing with the professor, and their minds were blown! They viewed their professors as hostile creatures who did not care about their academic successes. Yet, due to the open, engaging teaching style at St. George’s, I had no issues approaching my professors with questions or concerns about my academics. As a result, I got a 10-point bonus in that class, just for being communicative with my professor and taking the time to work with him.
Did St. George’s encourage you to take healthy risks and step outside of your comfort zone?
Yes! Without St. George’s pushing me to experience new options and try new tasks, I would have never ended up in my career field of event planning and operations. St. George’s always emphasized exploring new ideas and maintaining an open mind toward all options. I felt like every day at St. George’s, a new challenge was presented, whether it was a debate, physical activity, or a provocative discussion. This nature has made me approach every day as a new, exciting challenge to overcome, gain experience, and grow. I appreciate St. George’s pushing me out of my comfort zone because it impressed upon me the importance of pushing myself out of it every day in some way.
Which teacher had the greatest impact on you and why?
This is a tough decision, as there are so many, but I might have to say Yolanda Toney. When I was in ninth grade, I was struggling academically. I will never forget her taking me aside, sitting me down, and looking me straight in the eyes. She said, “You have the potential to do amazing things in this world, only you are holding yourself back.” I will never forget those words and her devoted passion to cultivating my success. I turned around academically and was honored to receive the Emerson-Thoreau Award two years later for exemplifying qualities of self-reliance, academic excellence, and individualism.
Other teachers who had an amazing impact on me include Scott Duff and Jennifer Vasil, both of whom were passionate about their students’ successes. They challenged my mind in countless ways and molded me into the person I am today. I thank those three teachers for making me who I am.
What is your favorite St. George’s memory?
In eleventh grade we took a class trip to Team Trek. I remember we had to climb on top of the 40-foot Power Pole and jump off while trying to grab a suspending triangle. I had been terrified of heights for several years, which prevented me from doing a lot of activities I was interested in, such as hiking and climbing. I remember our counselor saying, “I encourage those with a fear of heights to go first,” and so I volunteered to do it first. I will never forget that moment of standing on a pole, and choosing to jump off into free fall! Ever since, I have conquered my fear of heights and it instilled in me the importance of not limiting your own self from new experiences and challenges.
What advice would you give to St. George’s students or young alumni today?
Appreciate your time at St. George’s while you have it. I never realized how unique and privileged I was until I attended college and became just another number in the system. Few schools care that much about their students’ success. I miss the honor code system, challenging academics, thought provoking activities, and new experiences the school would provide for us. How many people can say they spent the night in the Cumberland Caverns in fifth grade?
What would you say to a prospective family looking at St. George’s?
A St. George’s education is unparalleled. Not only was I prepared for college academics, I learned skills in communication, intellectual acuity, and self-reliance. St. George’s holistic approach allows your child to learn in so many different ways—not simply passing standardized tests but experiencing essential life lessons that most schools neglect. I approach every task, career, and non-career opportunity with an open mindset, attentive attitude, and self-discipline to complete and overachieve any obstacle or task that is presented to me. I believe these skills are uniquely cultivated by St. George’s in all of its students.
St. George’s challenged me in so many ways that I never truly realized until I was gone. I am thankful every day for my education and years spent there. They were essential in developing my character and who I am as a person. I wouldn’t trade my St. George’s education for anything in the world!