You’re always one decision away from a completely different life. That’s a lesson Sarah Shendy, Case Western Reserve University’s newest police sergeant—who is believed to be the first Arab American Muslim female police sergeant in Ohio—learned at a young age.
Shendy, who will be sworn in today (May 25), was born and raised in the Middle East, and has roots in both Saudi Arabia and Egypt. When she was 6 years old, she and her family visited her father in Ohio, where he was finishing his PhD in polymer science at The University of Akron.
“The same company that he is still with today offered him a job [then]. My dad accepted, and we ended up staying,” she said. “I always think about how living in the United States is such a privilege denied to many. I am thankful for the series of decisions that were made to get my family here.”
At that time, Shendy didn’t know that decision would position her to shatter glass ceilings in the police academy one day. Becoming a sergeant was a career path she always had her heart set on—but she lacked the confidence she thought she’d need to make it happen.
That’s partly because she always focused on her differences and thought of them as liabilities rather than assets. As she matured, Shendy learned that everything she tried to suppress is what contributed most to her fulfillment and success—such as her cultural and religious knowledge and her ability to speak another language.
“I wish more young people in our society knew that who they are is perfect and will always be enough,” Shendy explained. “Diversity allows us to bring something different to the table that others may not be able to experience if it wasn’t for us.”
In her new role with the Division of Public Safety at CWRU, she hopes to inspire future generations to achieve their dreams, no matter their backgrounds, and support them in their individual journeys.
“Representation matters,” Shendy said. “I want young people who look like me, speak my language, practice my religion, and are first- or second-generation immigrants to look at me and think, ‘If she did it, I can do it.’”
Shendy has carried this motivation throughout her career, having worked with young people in roles focused on mental health and corrections, and even as a D.A.R.E officer and a school resource officer. She’s also worked in training and curriculum development, taught at conferences in Ohio and in other states, and acquired training in leadership, forensic child interviewing, trauma-informed care, and threat assessment and school safety.
“My goal as a sergeant [with] CWRU PD is to identify and build more leaders,” she explained. “I love to help people identify their passion and reach and exceed their potential. I want to be a part of people’s story when they think about their success and advancement.
“I also want to be a part of their story when things are not going well during the day or in their life,” she continued. “I aspire to be a part of people’s healing and recovery. It is what gives me the most fulfillment in life.”
Get to know Shendy in this week’s five questions.
1. What is your biggest personal goal for 2023?
My biggest goal for 2023 was to achieve the rank of sergeant in my career. I feel so honored and privileged to have done that with CWRU Police Department. Ever since my initial interview, everyone has been extremely kind, professional and welcoming. I am excited and look forward to my career here with a department that values leadership, diversity and community-oriented policing. The people here are unlike any group I have worked with in the past. I am grateful for the mentorship I am receiving and vow to pass it on to others.
2. How do you like to spend a day off from work and school?
I always feel great starting my day off with time at the gym. Taking care of mind, body and spirit is a priority for me. The healthier and happier I am, the more fit I am to help and serve others. I then visit with my family. I have lots of nieces and nephews and they mean the world to me.
3. Who has inspired you most in life?
My parents. As a first-generation Arab American family that had the privilege of coming to the United States in 1991, I saw how hard my parents worked every day to give us what they didn’t have. My parents have a ferocious work ethic and have always put service above self which primed me for a career in law enforcement.
4. Where would you most like to travel next?
Since my family is Egyptian, it is my go-to place when I travel internationally. Egypt is a slice of heaven on earth. I am always starstruck and fascinated by the amount of history and culture that took place in that country over centuries. The food is phenomenal and the scenery is picture perfect. Every time I visit Egypt, I feel immensely lucky to have the best of both worlds.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
My favorite thing about CWRU is the culture! Personally and professionally, I value academics, diversity, and having a community-oriented approach to preventing and solving problems. Being on a campus gives us the opportunity to interact with students from all around the world; we get to help shape their experiences and be a part of their story. I also love the location of the campus and admire the history, research and innovation associated with CWRU. The people are definitely what makes CWRU so special.