Joe and Sara Roman started dating as high school seniors and both graduated from South Division High School in 1969. Married a year later, the lovebirds and former Cardinals are now celebrating 51 years of marriage.
“South Division opened many opportunities for me that I had never imagined. It helped me become an electrician,” said Joe. High school also provided him with some of the things he still loves to this very day, including sports, his education, and fond memories. He recalled some favorite teachers. “Mr. Ruffing, Mr. Bartholomew, and Mr. Peters all helped to shape who I am today. Teachers and administrators at South Division truly made a difference and showed great care for the students they served.”
Joe is semi-retired but continues to spend his time in the electrical trade. He has worked on projects such as the Marquette Interchange, Mitchell Interchange, and the Zoo Interchange. “South Division High School gave me the confidence I needed to be successful.” Joe’s advice to young people is simple. “Listen to your teachers and counselors. They emphasized trades for me. They got me headed in the right direction.”
Sara’s years at South Division gave her a good education, and the school choir inspired her to sing and to appreciate all genres of music. Sara participated in many state and district vocal competitions as part of ensembles and as a soloist.
Sara recalled Mrs. Navarro, who left an impression on her as a teacher at Vieau School in first or second grade. “She was Hispanic and so kind and classy. She was also the first professional person I encountered with a physical challenge,” she said. “It appeared that Mrs. Navarro had a birth defect that impacted her hand. I was so impressed at how she managed.”
Sara still values her time at South Division. “Education is the most important thing that can allow you to reach your goals and pursue your dreams. Doors opened for me because I persevered and stayed focused. I would say that MPS was such a positive in my life.” Sara worked in a variety of office jobs including attorneys, physicians, and insurance companies, and was the executive secretary for the president of MECCA during the mid to late 1970s. Sara retired in 2012.
Joe and Sara even share a similar background that began with their parents emigrating from Puerto Rico. "My dad came first as a migrant, working in the fields of East Troy," Sara recalled. "In 1954, when I was 3, he sent for me and my mom.” In 1954, Joe's family of nine also came to Milwaukee to live with family until they bought the home that Joe grew up in. Sara's family lived with her aunt and uncle in a small duplex with other friends and family – seven families living in one duplex. "Once my dad had earned enough money, we went off on our own. We moved around a lot – mostly due to discrimination.”
Sara’s journey took her through a number of MPS schools. "I attended six MPS schools in different parts of the city—Alexander Mitchell, Vieau School (twice), Siefert Elementary, and Wisconsin Avenue School. Middle school was Walker Junior High School, then finally South Division High School.” Sara remarked that each change of school brought challenges, but they helped her become a stronger person who was able to make new friends easily.
Joe and Sara were also involved for more than 30 years with an organization called Healing the Children. As a result, they fostered 14 children in need of medical attention from several Latin American countries. Their daughter Rana has fond memories of the children who shared their home. "I believe having these kids in our lives instilled a sense of empathy in my brothers and me. My parents modeled the importance of helping others while keeping the space open for us to ask for help, too. When someone in our extended family needed a helping hand, they would go to my dad. Tony, David, and I were always the beneficiaries of unconditional love from my parents.”
Joe and Sara are proud of their three wonderful children—Tony, Rana, and David—who are all artistically gifted and are described by their parents as great human beings. All three graduated from Milwaukee High School of the Arts and all are inspiring artists. Sara and Joe continue to support their children in whatever show, concert, or life event they become involved in.
The Roman family makes MPS proud and they are true gems in the MPS Forever Family.