Even at a young age, Sarah Smith stood up for what she believed what was right. Whenever she encountered something she felt was unfair, Sarah invested time and effort to change it. In sixth grade, she refused to obey her elementary school’s dress code until girls were allowed to wear pants.
When she was only 15, Sarah spent her summer studying Spanish at the University of Havana in Cuba. Sarah was excited to see Cuba for herself and reported back about her experiences at different college campuses in Chicago. By her senior year in high school, Sarah was the President of the National Honor Society, the Student Representative to the Local School Council, and a volunteer at a low-income elementary school. In 2004, she was chosen as one of the six most influential female students in Chicago by Crains Business.
In 2005, in the summer after her freshman year at Grinnell College, Sarah traveled to Venezuela for the 16th World Youth Festival. When she returned to Grinnell, Sarah co-founded a student-run support group for students dealing with eating disorders and other forms of self-injury. She also became the co-librarian for an on campus, student operated library that offered donated college textbooks to students who could not afford them. Sarah spent a semester of her senior year creating and putting into practice an after-school program in a low-income elementary school in Washington, DC.
Throughout her time at Grinnell, Sarah attended many presentations about Israel and Palestine and was active with an interfaith Palestinian solidarity group. Sarah graduated from Grinnell in 2008 with a BA in Sociology. In the summer of 2010, Sarah went on a delegation to Palestine and Israel with two Palestinian-American friends. As a Jewish woman and an avid traveler, Sarah was eager to see for herself the living conditions in Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Upon returning to Chicago, Sarah and her friends reported on their trip at Depaul University. In early December, Sarah and her friends were subpeonaed by the FBI to appear before a grand jury about their trip to Palestine and Israel.