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In conversation with Sarah Hutton

United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey recently welcomed sarah hutton to the role of managing director, career pathways.

Learn a bit more about Sarah and her journey at United Way:


What drew you to United Way’s mission?  

The many systemic issues that contribute to the widespread poverty and inequity in our region (and our nation as a whole) date back hundreds of years. In order for things to truly change and for our society to undo centuries of harm, it will take the hard work and persistence of many different people and organizations. United Way’s focus on partnerships and bringing experts together to tackle some of these issues is something I feel passionately about. Our neighbors, our region, and our country will never reach their full potential until poverty is eradicated. Working with such a great group of people on such an important mission has been a highlight of my career.    

what are you most passionate about in your line of work? 

The work we have done in Philadelphia in the record-clearing space through The Promise is the project I have felt most passionate about during the past few years. The United States imprisons its citizens at a higher rate than any other country by far. Even if someone does not ever go to prison, just having an arrest record can keep them from obtaining certain jobs, renting certain apartments, and more. The idea that our neighbors can be permanently held back in life for something that, in many cases, was one small mistake many years ago is unconscionable to me. Particularly given the ways that certain communities are disproportionately targeted by our criminal legal system and given the number of people who take plea bargains to avoid harsher punishments – even when they did not commit any crime.  

 I am very proud of helping Philadelphians remove this very common barrier to high-quality employment. I commend United Way for recognizing that record clearing is a workforce development strategy and for supporting The Promise’s commitment to this work.  

What’s something that you wish more people knew in regard to your work?

When people hear “workforce development,” they often only think of job training. And while that is an important component of workforce development, the field is much more than that. There are many factors that prevent someone from obtaining (and keeping) a high-quality job that pays a livable wage and has long-term growth potential. To truly make sure someone can be successful at work, they not only have to be trained in their professional field, but they also have to have supports in place in other aspects of their life – stable and affordable housing, social supports, access to mental health services when needed, access to funds to pay for transportation to work and for any other life emergencies that arise, and so much more. Many of us grew up with these supports built into our familial and social circles from a young age, but many of our neighbors did not have such privilege. The workforce development field has to build on some of these wraparound services to truly set those with the greatest need up for success.  

Do you have a favorite book or inspirational quote that resonates with you?

It is impossible for me to pick a favorite book. But a quote that really resonates with me is actually a song lyric: 
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.”

To me, this quote is a reminder not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and that almost everything in the world is imperfect in some way—but it is only through these imperfections that we can experience the full range of all the world has to offer. I think this is important to keep in mind in our industry, but also in everyday life. I once saw an article that described this quote as “a little bit hopeful, a little bit cynical, but mostly realistic,” and I am pretty sure people have described my personality in the exact same way!  

Do you have a hidden talent?  

My hidden talent is getting dogs to like me, even when their owners claim they don’t usually like strangers.

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