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Cultivating Community as a Solution

Sarah (matthew) Rinn ’00 sees creating community as the way to assist those suffering from opioid addiction

Sarah Rinn ’00, a Policy Specialist and Opioid Prescribing Improvement Program (OPIP) Coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, lives the Benedictine practices daily in her work, bringing together a community of experts to tackle the opioid crisis, particularly among Medicaid participants. Her heart for making a difference in the world deepened while attending Saint John’s Prep as her understanding and lived experience of developing a culture of inclusivity and an appreciation for all was nurtured. Today, Sarah works to staff and cultivate a shared sense of mission for the Opioid Prescribing Work Group, a community-based expert advisory body legislatively tasked with recommending statewide opioid prescribing protocols, sentinel measures of opioid prescribing, and quality improvement.

There is little doubt that the Benedictine practices are front and center in Rinn household. Sarah and her husband, Alex Rinn ’99, are the proud parents of three young children. Trying to strike a work life balance during the pandemic has created challenges, but also opportunity. With three kids at home, finding a space to claim as one’s “office” and work uninterrupted is not an easy task. In the midst of what can often feel like chaos, Sarah strives to find moderation and balance in her work and family life. She is grateful that as a student at Prep she was encouraged to participate in a diverse set of activities. Her involvement in theatre productions, student government, tennis and other athletic activities, prepared her to wear “many hats” while seeking balance and moderation. In fact, this experience has helped Sarah find joy, confidence, and contentment while navigating a “new normal”. This attitude of making the most of any situation and believing in your ability to clear any hurdle has its roots at Prep.

“We were encouraged at Prep to push the academic boundaries. Taking college and advanced coursework while a student at Prep taught me a lot about being independent. I wasn’t just following a path or a specific mold that was predetermined for all students. I was encouraged to chart my own path. We all were. As I look back, I now appreciate how this experience gave me confidence as a 16 or 17-year-old to make decisions for myself. This confidence helped me shape a desire to chart my life’s course, one where I could make a difference in the world.”

Sarah is certainly doing her part to make a difference in our world. “At Saint John’s Prep, there was a commitment of working toward the common good. In my professional life, I have always been interested in how we as a society come together to care for the most vulnerable populations. Working to improve the lives of people who have found themselves addicted to prescription drugs or other substances is really about the common good. Community is the solution to this public health crisis. We must involve communities, healthcare workers, families, and shape public policy if we want to effectively address the opioid crisis. The solution to the problem has a cultural component as well. We must surround people suffering from addiction with acceptance and work to reduce the stigma associated with addiction. Serving others and this population specifically is particularly meaningful because the path to recovery is through a strong community wrapped around them.”

Sarah has undoubtedly embraced the teachings of Saint Benedict as he reminds us in the Rule that, “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ (R.B. 53).”

In her concluding remarks, Sarah reminds us all of what has made and continues to make the Prep School a special place for young people. “I’m proud to be a Prep! When I go back to campus, I feel a sense of belonging. Prep was a place where my individuality was valued, but also a place that taught me the importance of being part of a larger community. I am thankful for having been part of a small group of diverse people who have become my lifelong friends. Everyone was accepted. I had an experience of acceptance and inclusivity, which is harder to find right now.”

We’re proud to call Sarah a Prep and congratulate her for living a life of purpose, service, and achievement.