She’s the first person potential students and families talk to as they explore enrolling at StoneBridge. With vigor and an energetic passion for the school’s mission, Sara Gainor, SBS Class of 2010, who is also an SBS parent, is perfect for the job.
As the Director of Admissions, Sara gives prospective families tours of the campus and guides them through the admissions and enrollment process. A key part of her job is making sure families who partner with the school align with the StoneBridge mission and values.
Sara attended StoneBridge from ninth through twelfth grade and then went on to Virginia Tech, where she received a bachelor of arts degree in international studies with concentrations in politics and business. She went on to earn her master of arts in government with certificates in Mideast politics and counterterrorism from Regent University. Then life took a sudden turn.
“For many years I had high aspirations of working for the government and being part of the counter-terrorism world,” she said. “In grad school I began making the necessary connections with think tanks and companies tied to war gaming to set myself up for success after graduating. Sam and I were unexpectedly blessed with our daughter while we were both finishing our master’s and doctorate, which forced me to really think about what I was passionate about and what I wanted in life. While I loved everything I had studied, being a mom and giving myself every opportunity to be the most present parent I could be was much more important.”
Many people thought Sara was crazy to pivot her career ideas after completing her master’s. But she discovered in those first few years after pivoting that she loved connecting with people, building relationships, getting to dive deep into where someone’s heart lies. So, she did what she could to do something that fueled that passion.
“Pouring into children’s lives has always been a passion of mine,” Sara said. “A lot of my roles involve helping families ensure their children are learning more about scripture and growing in their faith. I’m able to do that by bringing families to SBS and also working with the children’s ministry at church.”
It’s no wonder that Sara has such a passion for sharing StoneBridge, given her experiences during her time at SBS.
“What are my favorite memories? Oh, my goodness, I could go on and on!” she said, with her characteristic exuberance. Her fondest memory, of course, is meeting her husband, Sam Gainor, Class of 2008, at school.
Mentoring with then-Spanish teacher Senora Branch was a pivotal part of her time at StoneBridge.
“Most mornings, she would break out her guitar and we would begin our day with worship,” she said. “She really created an environment where we felt like our own little family within the high school. She inspired me to become a mentor for high school so I could hopefully provide the same love and support to others that I experienced.”
Among her best memories were those made on her senior trip. Being a part of the drama productions was also a huge part of her SBS experience, as well as her classes with Mr. Carlucci, Mr. Garrett, Ms. Spargur, Mr. Wood, and Mrs. Mabe.
“Whether I had a teacher for a year or for all four years, I was incredibly thankful to learn and grow from their teaching,” she noted.
Sara even looks back fondly on major papers, including senior thesis. The rigor of all the reading assignments, projects like thesis, and all the opportunities for classroom discussion really helped ease the stress of the first few years of college.
“Because a lot of those crucial elements were covered with a StoneBridge education, the only adjustment I had to focus on was going from a small school with a class of 19 students to being at Virginia Tech with thousands in one class,” she said.
Sara credits StoneBridge for molding her into the strong Christian and enthusiastic SBS spokesperson she is today.
“When you leave this bubble of relatively like-minded thinkers to go to a secular college and workplace, it can be quite startling when you begin a conversation with someone and realize their worldview is a total 180 from yours,” she said. “I’m thankful that SBS gave me such a strong foundation to root my beliefs and help me navigate conversations, situations, and other opportunities to share my perspectives on different topics. The key is staying calm and respectful, but never wavering.”
When she is not at work, she and Sam are busy with their two children, Madelyn (Maddie), age 7, and Henry, 17 months. They also are active with the children’s ministry, marriage ministry, and hospitality teams at Coastal Virginia Church in Norfolk, Va.
Sara is looking forward to being the guest speaker at the Alumni Chapel on Thursday, January 4, 2024.