From the Show
Me State to the
Sunshine State

TENACIOUS, VULNERABLE, INTEGRITY

By: D. Hych

“I’m not going to hell over a dollar,” words
spoken by the President and CEO of Gulf
Coast JFCS, Dr. Sandra Braham, located
in Clearwater, Fl. The titled words of this
article are the three words that describe this
dynamic woman and leader. Dr. Braham is
the epitome of corporate leadership, and she
embodies what it takes to be relevant in an
ever-changing economy.


“It’s hard to believe that my life and journey
has brought me to this point, and it only
makes sense if you are a believer in God. The
work and journey she is referring to can only
be described as truly remarkable. Sandra
was born in St. Louis, Mo., AKA the “Show
Me” state—a state that is rich in talent
and the home of some of the best Bar B
Que you can find anywhere.

Sandra and her siblings grew up poor, her parents divorced when she was a toddler, leaving her and her siblings to reside with only her mother, who was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. The family lived on public assistance. Although facing mental illness and a world of challenges, their mother never left them alone. Sandra recalls a trip to Detroit in which her mother believed that Stevie Wonder had sent for her to visit. The family boarded a greyhound bus and the journey began. Sandra noted, “It was quite an experience. ”Sandra recalled,

 

“After deinstitutionalization, my mother struggled and was unstable until she admitted herself into the hospital.” Sandra did not let this stop her from
dreaming and pushing past the odds she faced. She and her two sisters carried a heavy load, always thinking it was their responsibility to take care of their mother. Sandra’s mother passed last year due to
complications with COVID-19.

The journey to becoming Dr. Sandra
Braham was a pathway with many forks
in the road. This never stopped her from
pursuing her dreams. After a couple years
in foster care and as an emancipated
17-year-old student with her mind set
to attend college to study biology, she
finished college and took a very different
path. This path would eventually lead to a
lifetime of serving others’ needs.


“I stumbled upon a career in higher
education by helping low-income Black,
White and Hispanic students enroll into
college,” Sandra noted, as she made her
journey from Missouri to Indiana and
ultimately, Texas, where she spent 14
years at the University of Texas at El Paso.
While at the University, she pursued her
doctorate degree and noted “a calling”
to shift careers, again. Dr. Braham then
became the CEO of what had become
the nation’s largest YWCA. Following that
10-year tenure, Gulf Coast JFCS recruited
Sandra to be their President and CEO.
While reminiscing about her professional
and life’s journey, Dr. Braham notes, “It’s
not where you start, it’s where you finish.”


By no stretch of the imagination is
Dr. Braham finished, in fact she is just
beginning. Each day she rises, reads a
scripture around 5:30am, has a cup of
coffee, and before she leaves home in the
morning, checks her emails and prepares
for that day’s journey. Dr. Braham share her
story with children who need to know where
she started, children like those supported
through agency’s foster care and adoptive
programs.


Soon, Gulf Coast JFCS will celebrate 50
years of incorporation. Dr. Braham says
God-willing, she will be at the helm,
ensuring that the organization is uplifting
lives for another 50 years. When noting
her favorite quote, Dr. Braham recalled
the words her high school counselor
wrote in her yearbook, “Mother may have,
Father may have, but God bless the child
who has his own.” For more information
about Gulf Coast JFCS, visit www.gcjfcs.org.