sarah-newmanConnections. Funny how they have a way of taking a person from Africa — to Mississippi. But that is precisely what has happened for Grass Valley, California native Sarah Newman. Her story reads like something from a movie script.

Take a then 23 year-old English major from out West and put her in West Central Africa for a year, writing lesson plans for a missionary couple. Then, when the job is complete, touch base with a longtime friend who just so happens to be in Mississippi working as a teacher. Now, have the friend ask “Sarah, where are you headed?”

“It’s a story in itself,” she explains from the second floor office of her new job (more on that in a minute). The friend, Emily Hood, who had been working with Teach For America, told Newman she’d love it in the Magnolia State. Hood, herself a California native, had fallen in love with the Deep South.

“Emily mentioned it may be easier to find a job here, that she had a solid group of friends and that she went to Fondren Church,” Newman says. Emily told me ‘You should consider Mississippi.’”

And so she did. Now 24, Newman says that four days later — literally — she was on board. With a couple of months back in California to reacclimate to the western hemisphere, Newman packed and moved on to a new opportunity, a new adventure.

Once she arrived here, it took only four days to find a job as project manager for a local firm, Creative Distillery. Newman calls the timing ‘crazy.’ “With (co-founder) Melia (Dicker) having her baby earlier this month, I am taking over her role, overseeing designer projects and helping with scheduling.” With a laugh, Newman says she realizes how much she enjoys controlling people. “I love it.”

Creative Distillery specializes in non-profit related projects and Newman says it’s another reason she took the job. “They really have a heart to help those companies create an identity,” she explains.

It’s a trait she appreciates after spending time in Cameroon. Newman saw first hand the missionary family’s passion for people and their goal of always showing love. “No matter where I go, I want to go that extra mile,” she says. “I’m here to help you. I’m here to care. It’s the perfect fit for where I am right now.”

The one-time want-to-be opera singer — who idolized Phantom of the Opera’s Christine Day — is taking the South in. In the month she’s been here, Newman has connected with new friends and says she is trying to experience everything. From coffee shops like Cups to her church’s Red Door tutoring program, she hopes she can plug in and meet more people in the community.

After all, she’s finding that’s what Mississippi is all about. “I love how open and kind everyone is. It definitely is a relational state. It’s just crazy how everything has fallen in to place just by meeting people. (Everyone is so) willing to help one another and it’s just overwhelming. You don’t get that in California at all.”