Get to Know: Sarah Cherne

President and CEO of Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas

Sarah Cherne is the president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas. She and her husband Damon Cherne have two sons: Alex, age 19, and Ethan, age  17. 

Photo courtesy of Sarah Cherne

Sarah Cherne is the president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas.

Where in Charlotte do you live? Where did you grow up? I grew up in a small, rural coastal town in Maine. Our family lives in south Charlotte near Olde Providence. We have lived in the area since 2008. My children attended Olde Providence Elementary and Carmel Middle School before attending Charlotte Christian High School. 

Tell us about your job. What’s it like? What do you like most about it? What are the challenges? I am the president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas. It is the most exciting yet most challenging leadership role I have assumed in my 20-plus years of nonprofit work. What I love about this role and Junior Achievement is that it provides hope, vision and a path to economic success for youth

Alongside JA’s army of volunteers, we use K-12 curriculum programs to empower young people to own their economic success by preparing for their future. While the role is a new challenge every day, I feel great connection and calling to the work that we are doing. And I believe wholeheartedly in the impact that it creates in the lives of the students and volunteers we serve.

What’s the hardest part of juggling family life and work life? It is a challenge balancing career and family. I find that there are seasons of life where work takes a back seat and sometimes when family takes a back seat. I think the best way to manage is to prioritize. I have made it a point to never miss a sporting event as this is what is important to my boys. I ask my boys what they think is important and then I make that a priority. I also know that I can’t do everything, so I work hard to schedule the things that are important, and this differs for every family.

I also believe in the “divide-and-conquer mentality” and that our family is like a team where everyone plays a part, including my boys. As a part of Team Cherne, my boys have learned how to push the vacuum cleaner, wash and fold laundry, and cook and clean their rooms to my standards. I also have an incredibly supportive husband. His partnership has been critical when I had to work extensive hours as we built the new Junior Achievement facility.

What’s your favorite thing about raising a family in Charlotte? The opportunities that exist in this city for families is amazing. I see Charlotte as a very family-focused city that has been a wonderful place to raise our children and a fantastic place for me to work in service to our community.

I also know, however, that there are a lot of students in Charlotte who do not have a strong family structure or the same opportunities my boys have had, and my hope is to bring this opportunity to all youth who engage with Junior Achievement.

Best advice ever received: Another CEO told me that as the leader, it was my job to “get in my helicopter” and hover over the organization and survey the lay of the land. Looking at the entire picture from a higher place or whole point of view perspective has been instrumental to understanding systems and how best to make decisions.

Proudest parenting moment: There are many moments when I have been bursting with pride for both of my boys but in different ways. I am proud when they receive recognition for something to which I know they have given their all, either a paper in a class, or in the sports they love to play. I am proud when they stand up for what they believe in and are not afraid to confidently and respectfully speak their mind and heart. I am proud of the fact they both work and have since turning 16 years old. I believe work experience adds tremendous value to their life. Seeing them accomplish their goals as young men makes all the hard work and sacrifice of parenting worth it.

Lowest parenting moment: There have been times of grave disappointment in my parenting journey, and the blame would need to be on me and my response or reaction to a trying situation. As a passionate person who embraces life with gusto, this also spills over into my reactions, especially when my children were younger and harder to reason with.

What are three things you can’t live without: Jesus is the one and only thing that I can’t live without. I feel blessed by my family and the life we have created, but I also know this is all temporary. It is the relationships with others and the love we can show through our actions that have lasting impact.

Favorite Instagram account: @JACenCarolinas

Last book read: “High Definition Leader” by Derwin Gray

What inspires you? Helping people and the ability to positively influence one another is the greatest motivator for me. I find such satisfaction in helping others and when I can make a difference in the life of a co-worker, friend, volunteer, student or child, this really fulfills and inspires me.