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Sara Llansa Petty



Sara Llansa Petty is passionate about ensuring that all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background, have access to the information and support they need to reimagine what is possible and unlock their full potential. Sara has been at the helm of EMERGE, a college access program in the Houston Independent School District, for the past seven years. EMERGE’s mission is to empower and prepare high performing students from underserved communities to attend and graduate from selective colleges and universities across the nation. 75% of EMERGE students have graduated from college in four years compared to 41% of students nationwide who are classified as high performing and low-income.

Sara oversaw the expansion of EMERGE from serving a graduating class of 164 students across 28 high schools in 2016 to serving graduating classes of 350 students across 42 high schools in the 7th largest school district in the nation. Sara considers herself a system-level leader and has enjoyed advising other school districts and organizations on how they can start EMERGE-like programs. She supported North Kansas City Schools in the development of the Catalyst Program, which identifies and supports high-performing, historically underrepresented students to attend and graduate from the nation’s most selective colleges and serves on the board of the Summer Equity Rural Program in North Carolina – an EMERGE-like program being developed by Harvard undergraduate students.

In addition to EMERGE, Sara currently serves on the executive board of TACAC as the co-chair of the Admission Practices Committee. She regularly presents at conferences, such as at NACAC, Guiding the Way to Inclusion, Preparate, Council of Great City Schools, and TACAC. She is eager to support school districts and organizations develop innovative programs that boost postsecondary outcomes for students.


  • College enrollment and completion
  • Higher education partnerships
  • Program design and implementation


  • MA in Human Dimensions of Organizations from The University of Texas at Austin
  • BA in Education (History/Policy) from Brown University
  • BA in International Relations from Brown University

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