While her first semester was dedicated solely to her studies and soccer, by her second she found herself among the ranks of the prestigious Phi Theta Kappa, a nationwide academic excellence organization.

Midway through that same semester, Samantha learned about the student government association and, though she had never been one to lead, entered the running for student government president.

She threw herself into the race and came out on top, skillfully securing her position as president. From that point, everything took off.

“I just started falling in love with it, I really did,” she said.

Samantha found herself meeting with top executives of the Northern Wyoming Community College District semi-regularly, serving as a liaison between the college’s upper echelon and the student body.

Her involvement with PTK rose to the next level as well, with Samantha accepting the position of regional vice president for the Wyoming and Colorado area.

Samantha threw herself into her new roles, attending leadership conferences and conversing face-to-face with U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both R-Wyo. She was interviewed for local news stories on the Student Government Association and her nominations for various scholarships.

Before she knew it, Samantha had become Gillette College’s pride and joy, evidenced by her nomination and selection as Gillette College’s Student of the Year.

“To be quite honest with you, I didn’t really know what that meant or what that encompassed,” she admitted.

The details were quite simple: becoming Gillette College’s Student of the Year meant that her involvement in student organizations and academic prowess had captured the attention of leadership, and they weren’t about to let her skate by without recognizing her for it.

Humble at heart, Samantha refuses to take full credit for her success at Gillette College, saying that it would have been impossible to succeed without her peers and college faculty.

“I’m totally a part of all of it and I love doing it, but I’ve never really appreciated the saying ‘it takes a village’ more than I do now,” Samantha said

She wants to use her success to one day help others achieve the same.

“If I can help one person in a way that changes their life and they go on to do something great, or maybe they go on to help someone else, eventually the world is going to feel that,” she said. “There is going to be change.”

She is only 19, young by traditional standards, but Samantha hasn’t let that stand in her way.

To other dreamers who think age is a barrier, she says it is important to love what you do and to find something you are passionate about.

“There’s always something that can be made better or something that can be perfected by positive influence,” Samantha said.

To help kick things into overdrive, she says that it is important to create a diverse network of people with a variety of strengths to serve as mentors, advisors, or simply people to bounce ideas off of.

“I like to think that I’m smart, but I like to surround myself with people who intimidate me with how much knowledge they have,” Samantha explained. “There is so much to learn from other people.”

Moving forward, Samantha’s studies will take her to the University of Wyoming, where she will continue her goal of becoming a speech pathologist.

No matter where she finds herself in the coming years, she will always remember her days at Gillette College.

“Never in a million years did I think when I agreed to come play soccer in Gillette, Wyoming, that a hundred other doors would open up for me,” she said with feeling.

By: Ryan R. Lewallen

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