When it comes to selfless service and dedication, Samantha C. (Sam) stands as an example of a young individual who has devoted her time to an important cause and integrated her learnings into her academic and professional goals.
Sam began her journey with the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) at 16, much younger than the average age of volunteers. She learned about NRS’s volunteer opportunities through her high school\’s list of after-school activities. She registered for what she calls an eye-opening 40-hour training that was so impactful she still uses the training materials to help guide her through difficult chats. Now, as a student at Washington University in St. Louis, Sam continues to volunteer by talking to young people and concerned adults who reach out through NRS’s chat service. A huge part of her continuing to support is the flexibility that NRS offers to individuals like her who want to volunteer but don’t have lots of free time.
Sam is pursuing a double major in Psychology and Cinema an Media Studies. She often finds parallels between her academic studies (particularly her psychology courses) and her work with NRS. These parallels allow her to bring a unique perspective to her school work, as her volunteer experience offers a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the youth who have experienced trauma.
Her creative talents are channeled into her final film project, which centers around the theme of Perception vs Reality and focuses on the complexity of jealousy and its consequences. Inspired by the quote, “If you believe something is real, it really happened,” Sam has created a film that explores the blurred lines between imagination and the real world. This isn’t her first time creating a thought-provoking film on social issues. In high school, she worked on a short film addressing the struggles of men dealing with anxiety and the associated stigmas. Drawing from her training at NRS, Sam brings a nuanced understanding to the portrayal of mental health challenges, fostering greater awareness through her film.
What Sam cherishes most about her volunteer role at NRS is the opportunity to work with resilient young people whom she describes as the strongest and bravest people she has ever met. The support system provided by fellow volunteers through group chats adds another layer of strength to their collective efforts, ensuring they offer the best possible support to anyone reaching out to NRS. She handles a variety of chats, and often finds herself assisting youth who are dealing with conflicts related to family dynamics. These interactions often reveal patterns of abuse, neglect, or intense disagreements, and Sam is always thankful to be part of helping young people find the best solution. Sam also notes that occasionally young people will reach out before a situation has escalated, and it makes her proud to hear from youth who want to get ahead of a potentially dangerous issue. In both cases, these young people and their loved ones often express gratitude, emphasizing the importance of real, empathetic human connection in times of crisis.
Outside her volunteer work, Sam engages in self-care through the simple yet therapeutic act of painting her nails. Her favorite hobby, attending concerts, offers a refreshing break from her responsibilities. From smaller, intimate shows to larger performances, Sam finds the most joy in the world of live music.
After reflecting on her journey, Samantha wants to encourage others to consider volunteering. She urges anyone considering volunteer to go ahead and register for training! Her message is clear: give it a try and discover the profound impact you can make by extending a helping hand to those in need.
NRS is proud to have Sam as a shining example and testament to the power of being an empathetic, non-judgment and non-directive support for young people, no matter what their need is.