Our own TJH Marketing Coordinator, Sabrina Dominguez, was awarded Young Philanthropist of the Year. But that’s only the beginning.
For children growing up in the foster care system, the odds are stacked against them. One out of every 4 will drop out of college. Less than 3% will earn a college degree. And only half will be employed by the age of 24. But for TJH Marketing Coordinator Sabrina Dominguez, those odds only kept her in motion, propelling her beyond nearly impossible circumstances.
To say that Sabrina’s story is inspiring would be an understatement. It’s not just that the 26-year old grew up in foster care from the age of two with a single mother and her two siblings. Or that she was diagnosed with leukemia during her freshman year of college at the age of 19, and worked two jobs while attending school full time. That’s only part of her story.
In addition to her role with Thomas James Homes, Sabrina spends her time giving back any way she can. She mentors college students, donates her time and money to various local charities, and aspires to one day create a college scholarship fund for kids that come from foster care. It’s no wonder that she was recently recognized as Young Philanthropist of the Year by her alma mater, Central Washington University. With an ingrained bias to help others and a desire to make a meaningful difference, she is a true exception to the odds, because of her upbringing–not in spite of it.
We sat down with Sabrina to talk about her recent award recognition. She shares what has led her to the accomplishment, advice for those wanting to give back, and how she went after her current role here at Thomas James Homes. Here’s Sabrina in her own words:
You were recognized as Young Philanthropist of the Year by CWU. How have your own life experiences impacted your philanthropic work and involvement?
What set me apart was my mom. She fostered me and my two biological siblings so that we could all be raised together. I was with her from the time I was 2-years old until I graduated and left for college. The whole reason she went into foster parenting was that her two biological children were grown and getting ready to move out, and she was experiencing an empty nest. She wanted more kids to love. It was pretty incredible.
We grew up going to church and while there was always some level of philanthropic projects going on, my mom always went above and beyond. I will never forget several Christmases where she coordinated a gift drive for the Angel Tree program, which collects and delivers gifts to local kids and families whose parents are incarcerated. We knew early on what it felt like to give back to the community. We spent Thanksgivings and Christmases serving at the local Mission. My mom would host Thanksgiving meals for people that were alone or without family so they didn’t have to feel alone or isolated but rather surrounded by love and community.
I had this golden standard of what you should do for other people when I was growing up and that has impacted me my whole life. My mom was a single parent on a teacher’s salary and we definitely struggled at times, but she gave as much as she could for everything. I was lucky to have a different experience from a lot of other foster kids. So when I see a need, I feel a strong bias to act because my mom did that for me. I knew so many people in college who didn’t have stable housing or food. It was eye-opening. You never know what people are going through.
What is most important for people to consider when giving back and wanting to make a difference?
In college, when I had student loans and was working two jobs to save up, I used to think “I’ll do more when I have x amount of money.” I always thought I couldn’t be impactful unless I had thousands to give. That sort of thinking stopped me from helping others. I have come to realize that there is an ebb and flow to giving. There may be points in your life where you have time, but you don’t necessarily have money; so you have to figure out how you can donate your time and talents in that way. Other times the pendulum shifts, and you have more money to give, but less time.
Amplifying the voices that need to be heard by sharing information on social media about nonprofits you care about is also important. There are a lot of needs out there, but people can’t help if they don’t know.
“The big thing for me is that I was very fortunate because I had a great village of people helping to raise me and willing to coordinate things like carpool or transportation to soccer practice. Looking back—it was the small things that made a world of difference.”
You were diagnosed with a rare cancer in college and continued to attend class while also working two jobs to pay for your treatment. How did this experience shape your life?
It showed that I had a lot of good people surrounding and supporting me. My whole life, my dream had been to graduate from college. So when I was diagnosed my freshman year, it was terrifying. I felt like my dream would be taken away. I managed for a couple of years until doctors told me I had to stop attending classes and go on bed rest for a few months. That was hard to hear. But I was so lucky—professors and friends asked what I needed and how they could help. When I was allowed to go back, I had friends that would carry my books to every class for me because I wasn’t able to carry more than 3 pounds. I don’t think people realize how much simply carrying my backpack meant to me. I don’t think they’ll ever know. Every small act that someone has done in my life has led me to where I am today.
What has been the most impactful moment in your life and career thus far?
I will never forget when I graduated college. It took me 5 years, but when I finally graduated, it was amazing. It wasn’t just an ‘I did it’ moment; so many people pushed me, supported me and helped me get there. Every small act that someone has done in my life has led to where I am now.
The philanthropy service award was a huge surprise. For people to have nominated me and say “We see what Sabrina has done and it matters,” was such an honor. Everything came full circle—I never shared what I had done because I didn’t think it was that much. Even when I told a few close friends about the award, they joked with me, saying, “That’s amazing, but what do you do to help?” because they didn’t realize I was volunteering in my free time.
“What set me apart was my mom. She gave as much as she could for everything. So when I see a need, I feel called to do something because she did that for me and so many others.”
What inspires you?
I see so many people and follow organizations that are doing life changing things—The Mockingbird Society is one that works to create more equitable opportunities within the foster care system and help youth that come from the system by creating new legislation. The impact they’re making is so inspiring to me.
Treehouse for Kids is another one. They want kids in foster care to have normal experiences like everyone else. So they raise money to help ensure these kids can do things like play sports, learn how to drive, or make sure they can get to a doctor’s appointment—things that so many people take for granted.
As the marketing coordinator for the new Pacific Northwest division of Thomas James Homes, you collaborate with a lot of different teams to create efficient processes and develop the marketing for upcoming builds. What led you to choose a career with Thomas James Homes?
I previously worked with Megan Turner (TJH Sales and Marketing Manager) at another company and always admired and respected how on top of things she was. I aspire to be a person like Megan—she manages so many details. When Megan moved on to TJH, she had such great things to say about the company and the team—how they are always open to ideas and had a great culture of helpfulness, which resonates with me on a personal level. I also knew I could be part of helping build a new division. That was very exciting.
How has your experience been with working with the TJH team?
Everyone is so wonderful. Either they are really good actors, or they are just really great people. If I have an idea, the team is open to hearing it. They’re collaborative and empower employees to grow professionally. It truly is a culture of helpfulness.
I also love that the TJH team stands behind their product. So many homebuyers have gotten used to a community of a hundred homes and then picking between maybe five floor plans. TJH is different and it’s exciting that they’ve brought a new type of custom home building option to this region.
Lastly, what’s something most people don’t know about you?
My goal is to visit the last Blockbuster in America in Bend, Oregon. I loved Blockbuster as a kid. But my ultimate life goal is to create college scholarships for kids who graduated from the foster care system.