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Student Spotlight: Sarah Gerke

Therapy is more than just chit-chat; it’s about the relationship and bond built with someone willing and eager to listen. That ‘someone’ is someone like Sarah Gerke. From teaching elementary kids to running a camp, Sarah is a busy woman with a calming spirit. Full-time mom, wife, and now student, she has always found a way to be actively involved in her community and serve those around her. Through her pursuit of an online Master of Marriage and Family Therapy at ACU Online, Sarah has not only deepened a passion for building relationships with her clients but also a desire to help pregnant women undergoing prenatal care and post-partum depression. And while it might be difficult for some to see the goodness amid these difficulties, Sarah is keen on managing people’s emotions and pointing them back to an unspeakable joy through effective therapy.  

From Classroom to Camp To Online Class

Raised in Sugar Land, Texas, Sarah Gerke always knew she had a knack for working with people. After completing her bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Houston-Downtown, Sarah taught elementary-aged children for 13 years. While she was enjoying every moment of her crazy classroom life, a new opportunity knocked on Gerke’s door – the chance to operate a retreat camp in Huntsville, Texas. Unsure about what this new career would bring, Sarah decided that a change of pace was necessary and maybe even a little fun. So,  she and her family packed up and headed out to Carolina Creek Christian Camps. For the next 10 years, Sarah worked her way into the system, becoming part of the marketing team and then the summer registrar. Working with churches, organizations, and individuals from around the nation, Sarah opened her eyes to the fundamental question behind her role in camp: Why do people need a retreat? How do they feel when they are at peace? How can I be a part of their journey toward finding inner peace? 

Sarah started to wonder if she might go back to school and study something that could bridge the gap between her passion for serving and her interest in therapy. After searching for programs that could allow her to complete her degree online while still running the camp, Sarah decided to take her staff members’ advice and applied to ACU. It was then that she quickly learned how ACU’s biblical perspectives were being applied to the world of therapy and, more importantly, how the university’s faculty guided students throughout the entire process, from start to finish. 

The Joys of Virtual Relationships

If you ask Sarah what her favorite aspect of the Marriage and Family Therapy program is, she would say it’s the mentors she has acquired. Having worked with professors like Dr. Morris 

and Dr. Salkil, Sarah believes that the types of relationships you build while in the program can take you places you never thought possible. Recalling a time she attended a conference for the Texas Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, Sarah says, “I was shocked to run into Dr. Salkil and see her for the first time, face-to-face.” Thrilled to finally have the opportunity to thank her in person for all the help she had given her, Sarah appreciates these little meet-and-greet moments with professors have made a huge difference during her time at ACU. These faculty and mentorship relationships, along with the fact that she has met so many amazing friends from across the country, have made it so that Sarah cannot think of where else she would rather be. And while forming relationships via Zoom may grow challenging over time, Sarah explains that it has helped her and her colleagues build a shared interconnected community about what it means to be in graduate school and work full-time. And to her, that’s what the real ACU difference is – creating lasting relationships with like-minded people. 

Transitioning Into Therapy

The journey for many therapists typically starts with a background in education, which is undoubtedly true for Sarah. Having a background in working with children and their families, Sarah is now on her way toward completing her internship at the Center for Postpartum Family Health, where she works with prenatal women undergoing trauma, stress, or the loss of a child. Hoping to start her new career as part of their organization eventually, Sarah also has other big goals she would like to achieve, including establishing a retreat dedicated to those undergoing family trauma and stress. As a soon-to-be licensed therapist, she’s eager to see where her new career will take her next. Being in complete sync with her husband and family, Sarah knows that transitioning from camp director to therapist will be a dramatic emotional and physical shift. However, more than anything else, she is excited to venture out of her routine and experience service from a new perspective. 

In Sarah’s words, obtaining an education is no longer about the age at which you start but about how you finish

By seeing how easy it was to start an online degree program like those offered at ACU, Sarah has become an advocate for those who might feel too old to change careers and encourages them to apply to ACU because of its flexibility and ability to “pursue your interests without feeling the need to alter your entire lifestyle.”  Like Sarah always says, you are never too old to change your career, so why wait? 

Do you want to find your purpose like Sarah Gerke? Visit our website or call 855-219-7300 to learn how you can step into a fulfilling, innovative future at ACU Online.

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