Kathryn Sandretto is exactly what you would imagine a criminal prosecuting attorney to be: passionate, driven, just, and intelligent. And if raising two young daughters and prosecuting criminals isn’t enough to keep her busy, Sandretto also volunteers with Sisters in Law, a support group for Mom’s House Toledo that provides single mothers one-on-one mentoring with a female attorney.
Sandretto has been mentoring the same young mother, Maraysia Dean, for almost four years. The mentorship began when Maraysia was 19 and raising her infant daughter on her own. Sandretto jokes that they’ve made it through three different colleges and a few “knockdown fights,” but Maraysia recently graduated with her LPN degree — and she’s considering going back to school to obtain her RN.
Listening more than talking
Sandretto explains, “One of the things I discovered about mentoring is that it’s more about listening than it is about talking. The most important thing I do is sit and listen. I’m a sounding board. Most of the time that means that I don’t say anything–she doesn’t need me to tell her how to live her life.”
While Sandretto is almost twenty years older than Maraysia, Sandretto’s youngest daughter is close in age to Maraysia’s preschool aged daughter. Sandretto has two girls, Audrey (6), who just started kindergarten, and Evelyn (9), who is in third grade. Sandretto explains that this gave them a starting point, a way to connect. “No matter what choices Maraysia makes,” continues Sandretto, “I will be there on the other end. What most moms [lack] is a consistent support system–somebody who will say, ‘I’m still here. I know you’re mad, but I’m still here.’”
Something good and positive
Despite being a busy working mom, Sandretto knew she wanted to make time to volunteer with the nonprofit Mom’s House. She confesses, “Every day I see the awful in the world, and I had to have something good and positive in my life…besides my wonderful family.”
“Mom’s House says we are going to do everything in our power to give young women every chance in the world to get out of poverty and to provide for their families, and they do all of that without judgment,” says Sandretto. “Even if it’s just one person, one single mother, who makes it with our help, then it’s worth it.”
Mom’s House provides childcare all year round so that single moms can attend school. The mothers contribute by attending classes –they must be in school– including life skills classes, and helping with the upkeep of Mom’s House. Moms “graduate” when their youngest child heads to kindergarten.
“I am blown away by the moms; I could never have done what they do. They are my heroes,” Sandretto exclaims. “The fact that they get up every day–at 16, 17, 18–and they raise those babies and go to school and some of them also have jobs…they’re changing their lives.”
Sandretto adds thoughtfully, “These girls have taught me gratitude. I am so grateful for my privilege…how easy my life is.”
Not-for-profits are a necessity in this day and age, Sandretto argues. “You can’t expect people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. If we give people who start off with a disadvantage a little help and give them a leg up–providing childcare and life skills–and try to help level the playing field, then we make it better for everybody. When everyone has a job and isn’t stuck in the cycle of poverty, everybody benefits.
“We can’t succeed without not-for-profits. They make it a little more even when life is so uneven from the start,” concludes Sandretto.
Q & A Session
What’s your favorite activity to do with your family?
Vacation in Traverse City.
Best holiday memory from when you were a kid?
Thanksgiving at my grandparents in East Cleveland with too many people and too many tables stuffed into too small of a house!
What’s your go-to activity when you have a few minutes to yourself?
Describe your life in five words or less.
Mother, wife, daughter, prosecutor, friend.
What are your favorite Toledo hangouts?
Michael’s downtown, The Blarney, The Casual Pint.
Describe Toledo in a sentence?
Best place to raise kids, spend time with family, and grow up.