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YouNite: A step toward awareness and action


Last updated 12/1/2019 at 11:25am

Sarah Engebretson, left, and Emily Engebretson are the inspiration behind an upcoming event for junior high and high school children with disabilities. "It's a YouNite Christmas" will be held Saturday, Dec. 14, from 5-8 p.m. at SonRise Christian Fellowship.

Banning Cantarini

Special to Village News

Culture is a funny thing. As it progresses through the motions of change and growth the new ideals and trends that sprout up can leave its inhabitants with two options: adapt or be left behind. And the reality is nobody wants to be left behind. They want to be integrated, trendy or "woke."

What if you didn't have the option to stay relevant? What if you were born into a world that would never be accessible to you? It might be difficult to comprehend living in a place where everything around you isn't built for you, but this reality is how many people and their families in communities across America live. And it's a problem that a group of young Fallbrook philanthropists are working to address.

Sarah Engebretson is one of the many people the community is lucky to have. She spends much of her time working with young people all over Fallbrook and has the gift of extravagant kindness.

When asked about how she became who she is, Engebretson gives credit to many different influences in her life, including her teachers, coaches, faith, etc. But she also said that the single most important influence in her life is her family.

More specifically, the special bond that they all share. Her sister Emily Engebretson was born with a rare chromosome deletion which meant that she would live her life with severe developmental delays. Many people might look in on their life and feel a sense of sympathy for the Engebretsons, but Sarah Engebretson doesn't accept that sympathy.

Why? Because Emily Engebretson is not a burden. She is a sister, a daughter, a great teacher and a wonderful part of her life, she said. And her passion for her sister and other people who have disabilities has driven her to pursue an advanced degree in speech and language pathology, she said.

Many months ago, Sarah Engebretson was meeting with a group of community leaders who asked two simple questions: "Is our community accessible to everyone and, if not, is there something we can do about it?"

These questions were ones that Sarah Engebretson had spent a lifetime preparing answers for, and as she shared her family's story with the group, it became apparent that there was something they could do.

For those living in a world that they couldn't be relevant in and that wasn't accessible to them, they can feel isolated and placed on the outside of "normal" life.

YouNite is a way of creating more spaces for these members of the community to live and enjoy. Comprised of a team that has the passion, the training and the awareness, YouNite's vision is to host safe and fun events for the young people and their families who have disabilities while helping advocate awareness.

Their first event, "It's a YouNite Christmas," will be held Saturday, Dec. 14, from 5-8 p.m. at SonRise Christian Fellowship, 463 S Stage Coach Lane. The free event will consist of crafts, snacks, a movie and a visit from Santa. To register or find out more information about YouNite and its team, visit


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