35 Under 35: Sarah Mattson, Head Start Project Director, SENDCAA

Written by: Brady Drake

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I’m Sarah! I grew up in Argyle, MN, and currently reside on a hobby farm outside of Kindred with my husband and our one-year-old son. We love living in the country with our horses, cats, and dog while updating our one-hundred-year-old farmstead.

I graduated from the University of Minnesota Crookston with a degree in EarlyChildhood Education. I have worked with SENDCAA for the past 13 years in the Head Start program, where I have built my career on serving the children and families in our community. Currently, I am the Head Start Project Director where I oversee the program, which works with 346 children in Fargo, West Fargo, Lisbon, and Wahpeton. Our program focuses on providing comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.

Outside of work, I am a cowgirl at heart. I love to ride and show my horses, and I volunteer with the Marshall County Mounted Sheriff’s Posse, a search and rescue group in Northwestern Minnesota.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

Over the years, I have found the most influential people in my life have been the children and families that I have worked with at SENDCAA. I have seen families overcome so much to provide a better life for their children. Seeing the success stories that have happened within the Head Start program motivates me to help the program succeed.

What drives you?

My family drives me. I know that the work that I do impacts the dynamics of my family, and I strive to be the best version of myself for them! I hope that the work I do will make our community a better place for my family to grow.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I really feel that as a community, we need to focus on providing quality childcare and early childhood education to the children in our community. This is something that is affecting businesses, families, and childcare workers. We need to be able to invest in our childcare workers so that they can provide the best care for our children.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Everyone has their own personal battles that they are fighting; we need to have more compassion for whatever situation they might be in.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I love to hike the North Country Trail, which is located south of my home. Fargo-Moorhead is constantly changing with new restaurants, breweries, and shops, and it is always fun to explore and try what is new. A “must do” each year is attending the Pride of Dakota to stock up on my favorite North Dakota-made items.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope to see myself still working for SENDCAA, meeting the goals I have set with my grant, and continuing to provide services for our children and families. I hope that my family has grown and is enjoying our personal interests and hobbies!

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program?

I hope to take this opportunity to become a better leader to guide others in my program. There are 65 women that work in my program at SENDCAA, and I want to help empower them in their careers. We also work closely with our mothers, and I hope that we can help motivate them to meet their goals for themselves and their families. The opportunity to be a part of the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program excites me to be able to connect with other women in our community, to be able to give back to the Cass/Clay communities, and to help promote SENDCAA and all the services we provide.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

“The Beauty Underneath the Struggle” by Niki Spears is a book that focuses on energizing the education field and helping to prevent teacher burnout. This book was a pep talk to myself about being responsible for my own story, reframing life challenges, and turning them into something positive.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.