Utah State Rep. Sandra Hollins was recognized by YWCA Utah in September 2020 for her dedication to the community and was named Woman of the Year at the 2020 Leader Luncheon alongside Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist, and Neylan Mcbane, founder of Better Days 2020.
YWCA Utah is dedicated to advancing the well-being of women through safety, opportunity and advocacy. Each year the organization recognizes women in the community whose work embodies the YWCA mission of eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
Hollins has upheld the mission and values of the YWCA through her advocacy for Salt Lake City’s underserved populations. In 2015 she took service to a new level by running for office to represent District 23. Hollins never thought about serving her community through a political position until former District 23 Rep. Jen Seelig asked her to. After some contemplation, she decided to run.
Her focus on homelessness and poverty precedes her run for office, and she has carried the fight for those issues into her work on the hill. Since being elected, Hollins has also fought for issues relating to substance abuse recovery and the school-to-prison pipeline, having sponsored a bill on the latter that a west-side resident brought to her.
Recently, she advocated for funding the Arts Castle located at 915 West and 100 South, a project sponsored by the Utah Arts Alliance that will provide a place for art and cultural experiences on the west side.
Looking at what Hollins has accomplished in her term thus far, it is apparent that she has risen to the challenge of representing Salt Lake City’s west side and amplifying voices that are often underrepresented in politics. She believes that having diverse voices at the table strengthens our democracy, and this belief is reflected in all she does.
As Utah’s first Black female lawmaker, Hollins is a pioneer in establishing that diversity. “When I was elected, I was surprised to learn that I was the first to open that door. My goal is to keep that door open for others,” said Hollins. “My experience as the first Black female representative has been mostly positive but not without its challenges,” she elaborated. “There are those who struggle with me being in this elected position, but I chose to stay focused on representing my community.”
For others interested in crossing the threshold into leadership and political positions, Hollins encourages searching for opportunities to lead and learn.“You may be out of your comfort zone, but in that zone, you will find your greatest growth.”
Although she’s always searching for opportunities to lead and learn, Hollins also enjoys a perfectly comfortable comfort zone consisting of family movie nights with lots of junk food, and keeping in touch with her New Orleanian roots by cooking creole and southern soul food on Sundays.
She relocated from New Orleans to Salt Lake City in 1993 with her growing family, and they instantly connected with their new Fairpark neighborhood. “We fell in love with it because it reminded us of where we grew up,” said Hollins. “As we visited the property our future neighbors came over to greet us and immediately made us feel welcome.”
Drawing from her training as a social worker and experience with community activism, Hollins has become a strong voice for west-side communities, a position she feels honored to be trusted with. Even when it’s her work being recognized, Hollins uses her platform to ensure that other voices get acknowledged, supported, and celebrated. In response to the YWCA honor, Hollins insisted on instead highlighting the contributions of others.
“We are fortunate that there are several women in our community that work as advocates and empower women and improve the lives of others,” said Hollins. “I want to take a moment to recognize all those west-side women whose advocacy work often goes unnoticed – women like Ms. Elizabeth Montoya, who quietly works to make sure that families on the west side have access to food, and Ms. Dolores Salters, who has dedicated her life to working as a civil rights advocate in our community. I want to honor all those women whose names we may never know. I honor and appreciate you.”