From the time she was a little girl, Sarah Royer loved everything about the environment and its benefits. She was passionate about learning and doing more — from reading books to finding ways to contribute to making an impact. That passion continued to grow throughout her time in school, and while she wasn’t sure how it would tie into college or a career, Royer knew that it would lead her somewhere great.

“I remember learning about reducing, recycling and reusing when I was four,” she says. “Our family home was less than 3 miles from a water treatment facility. So as I got older, I started to realize the impact it had on our quality of life. That really fueled my motivation for finding a way to help our community and others like it.”

Now, just a couple weeks away from earning her environmental studies degree and political science minor, Royer has her sight set on what’s next: law school. She plans to advocate for communities to ensure everyone has equal access to clean resources and proper infrastructure that benefits both the environment and society.

“I plan to focus on environmental law, as well as sustainability and community development. My goal is to become an environmental lawyer where I’ll be able to tackle many of today’s environmental justice issues,” she says.

An Opportunity to Thrive

Raised in Miami Gardens, Royer comes from a Caribbean home. Her mother is Jamaican and father is Dominican. The family is tight-knit and her parents always wanted to ensure Royer had the opportunity to succeed. And when it came time to choosing a college, it was her mother that gave her the idea of attending UCF.

“I’m so happy I became a Knight. The campus is beautiful and there are so ways to get involved.”

“My mom told me about different opportunities available at UCF,” she says. “I’m so happy I became a Knight. The campus is beautiful and there are so ways to get involved. Plus, the amazing football climate was a bonus. I love football.”

One of her first priorities after arriving on campus was to take advantage of everything the university has to offer. She joined the Caribbean Students’ Association and met students who shared similar values and were her support system during her time at UCF. Royer was also part of LEAD Scholars for two years, which she credits with molding her into a better leader and person to serve others. During her Spring 2021 semester, she was initiated into the Mu Iota Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. where she was able to expand her leadership experience by becoming the treasurer. Royer will also continue to make a global impact and serve her community alongside her sorority sisters.

“I always recommend students to get involved and spend their time wisely here. It’s a good way to meet new people, enjoy new experiences and figure out the path you want to take,” she says.

Royer also participated in undergraduate research during her time at UCF. She most recently completed an independent research project where she focused on the city of Houston — specifically on the resources and infrastructure the city has in place to help protect environmental conditions in urban and underserved communities. During her literature review, Royer gained insight into the designing storm water and flood management systems, managing weather events like Hurricane Harvey, and implementing measures to ensure equal access to clean resources and proper infrastructure. She hopes to bring awareness to the issue through publishing her research and presenting her findings at the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC) and Student Research Week in early 2022.

“The environmental studies program’s interdisciplinary approach helped me learn and apply creative solutions to solve challenging problems,” she says. “The experience helped mold me into a good candidate for law school, jobs and so much more.”

Hands-On Skills Meet Real-World Experience

As Royer learned more about environmental studies and the legal field, she wanted to take the next step and get hands-on experience. She landed two internships with the City of Orlando which would provide her with a first-hand glimpse of what the industry entails. Royer’s first opportunity included serving as the city’s sustainability education intern where she helped coordinate workshops that taught middle schoolers about the environment and recycling.

“It was a great experience to get involved in our community. One of my favorite parts of the internship was contributing toward managing the urban farm spaces that we have. I learned so much,” she says.

After completing her first internship, Royer stayed with the City of Orlando and transitioned to the energy department. This one was more data driven and allowed her to examine the science side of the industry.

Throughout her studies, Royer was determined to not let anything get in her way, including the pandemic. While many things were virtual, she continued searching for opportunities using Handshake — a database that connects UCF students and alumni with employers. It provided a path to her next opportunity: a paralegal internship with Malik Law PA in Spring 2021. There, she was able to work directly in the legal field — drafting documentation, motions, and notices, creating case files, and helping attorneys prepare for trial.

“I took it upon myself to find opportunities during the pandemic,” she says. “I wanted to elevate my professional skills and I’m so thankful for the opportunities that I found on Handshake.”

Now, Royer is ready to take some time off after graduation and start exploring law schools — from Washington D.C. to Tennessee to Florida — before attending one in Fall 2022. She’s also looking forward to getting a head start on thumbing through some legal books during her downtime.

“I love it here. Coming to UCF made me a better person and has prepared me for the real world. I can’t wait to see where life takes me next.”

But Royer isn’t saying goodbye to UCF yet. Over the coming months, she plans to continue her work as a peer mentor and student assistant for the Office of Undergraduate Research, where she helps guide students throughout their research journey, like recommending faculty mentors and finding ways to get funded.

“I love it here,” she says. “Coming to UCF made me a better person and has prepared me for the real world. I can’t wait to see where life takes me next.”