Sarah McCauley, rising senior, North Atlanta High School

Sarah McCauley has always had a passion for helping others.

Sarah McCauley

When she was in first grade, her mother, Kim, formed a Girl Scout group that began working on community service projects. When Sarah’s uncle was diagnosed with a brain tumor while she was a teenager, Sarah founded a nonprofit organization called Strands of Hope, which sells scarves to fund research that could help those who were suffering like her uncle.

Sarah did all the work on her own for Strands of Hope — from learning how to knit, to setting up the organization’s website, to researching the group that would receive the proceeds from her work. She donates the money she raises to the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation.

The project came as a surprise to her family.

“My husband and I didn’t even know that she had done it,” Kim McCauley said. “We were so preoccupied with researching clinical trials [for her uncle] and helping out with care. She just came one night at dinner and told us that she was going to help raise $1,000 for Uncle Tim. Now $20,000 later, she’s still going strong.”

Recently, Sarah earned the highest honor in Girl Scouts, the Gold Award, for work renovating the Advocacy and Outreach Center in downtown Atlanta.

For her project, Sarah, helped by master gardeners, removed existing plants and planters from the center and put in raised beds to grow vegetables. She also redid existing plantings in the center’s courtyard, putting in new flowers and trimming trees and bushes to make the area more inviting.

“It was a sad situation because in downtown Atlanta there are so many people that are not only homeless, but hungry too,” Sarah said. “To be put in a place where they can feel welcome is so fulfilling.”

Sarah’s project has touched the lives of those who use the center. One homeless man who had been hired to care for and harvest the vegetables recently wrote to Sarah to thank her for her work. He said he feels that taking care of the gardens gives his life purpose.

“This is something that is so much a part of her,” said Karen Cunliffe, one of Sarah’s Girl Scout group advisers. “This is who she is. If she puts her heart to something, she won’t stop when she achieves one thing. She’s not looking for just one end result. She’s looking for a continuous result. I rarely see that kind of dedication from someone at her age.”

What’s Next

Sarah plans to continue working with Strands of Hope as well as keeping the Advocacy and Outreach Center in Atlanta in top shape.

She has thought about college and has a long list of options. Her goal now is to narrow down those options and see what the best fit for her is.

“I’ve definitely thought about [college], but I have a really long list at this point that I’ve kind of tried to narrow down lately,” Sarah said. “As for majors, I really don’t know yet. I want to go for scholarships because I know there are a lot of schools that offer them for people who have started organizations and things like that.”

If you are interested in checking out her website, visit

— Daniel Kramer