Sonya D. Callahan

Sonya D. Callahan has always been passionate about advocating for the “underdog”. When she found out that her manager and mentor, Linda D. Kimble, Executive Director of Cleveland MOTTEP and Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), had a Master’s of Education degree in Health Education and Promotion, she looked into schools close by where she too could earn this degree. Sonya has helped the community through her major, and outside of it, in many ways. One thing she talks about is her research on human trafficking. “I am a member of the Minority Health Alliance in Cleveland Ohio and based on all the research I have done on human trafficking, I was able to organize MHA’s Professional Conference entitled ‘Understanding the Impact of Human Trafficking: It’s Not Just Sex!’ for adults in November 2015 and was able to secure speakers from Bellfaire JCB’s Homeless and Missing Youth Program, The Church of The Holy Angels which operates the S.O.A.P. program (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) founded by American author and survivors, Theresa Flores, The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Detective John Morgan from The Cuyahoga County Sheriff ’s Department, who was the lead detective for both the Arial Castro and Tamir Rice investigations, The Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, The Renee Jones Empowerment Center, and The Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland who recently built housing exclusively for adult victims of human trafficking, the first among the region.” This is not all she did to advocate against human trafficking though. “For [her] Advocacy & Policy in Health Education & Promotion class, [she] was able to secure an appointment and coordinate myself and the rest of [her] classmates to conduct advocacy about Human Trafficking to representatives at Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge’s Office in spring [of] 2015.” She also conducted research on high school students about their awareness, education, and feelings regarding human trafficking in fall of 2015.

Additionally, Sonya has used her love of roller-skating, and connections in this hobby, to advocate for important issues. She organized Skate For Life, an annual benefit promoting health awareness and education among the roller skating community that she has kept up from April 2011 to the present. This organization has raised money for heart disease, organ, eye, and tissue donation, as well as The Plastic Surgery Foundation’s Breast Reconstruction Awareness Fund. Organ, eye, and tissue donation is another important issue to Sonya. She was a guest columnist for The Kent Stater in April of 2015 for “Celebrate National Donate Life Month” where she wrote about the importance of being an organ, eye, and tissue donor.

There are many things in life that motivate Sonya to work hard. One person that has made an impact on her life is Dr. Lauri Wagner. She is always there for Sonya when she needs her, and was truly inspiring in her Advocacy and Policy in Health Education and Promotion class. Another thing that motivates Sonya to work hard is the way she was treated in her previous job. “At my former job, although I was performing the same tasks as my colleagues, I was not valued or given the same respect since I lacked a bachelor and master degree. However, I finally achieved my bachelor degree in August 2014 and will be achieving my master’s degree in May 2016. In fact, I will be the first in my family to achieve a master’s degree in which I am proud of.”

When Sonya graduates, she hopes to be able to find a full-time job with a non-profit organization where she can advocate for health issues. Some advice she has for current students is “to take advantage of all of the opportunities that Kent has to proactive and [do] not wait until someone else brings forth the opportunity.” What she will remember most about Kent State are the people she has studied with throughout her major and the fact that they will be finishing together and have always had each others’ backs. In her future, she hopes to continue to be able to advocate for those in need.