Meet Samantha. Age 25. Buffalo, New York. Marketing Manager.
What do you love about living and working in Western New York?
There are so many factors! First, I love the people of Western New York. I have met so many tremendous characters in this area that I will always cherish.
Second, I am a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, and as such, I feel so close to my heritage being in this area. I’m no more than an hour from territory and there are so many resources for Buffalo Senecas that I feel like I can continue to learn my culture.
The third has more to do with diversity. I grew up with exchange students from all over the world coming in and out of my home every summer. I grew up on the west side of Buffalo, going to School 19 and Lafayette High School. I thrive in an environment where there are things going on that are different from what I know. That’s why I loved traveling on my own to different countries. I’ll eat almost anything at least once. I feel like this is the best place to get that kind of diversity without the loud bustle of New York City.
What is a typical day like for you at PUSH Buffalo?
I’m still fairly new at PUSH so I don’t quite have any routine per se. However, on any given day, I am typically in awe of my colleagues. There is such a passion for the community here – for social justice, equality, and aiming to give everyone a chance. In some communities, that simple act of giving someone a fighting chance means the world.
My program, PUSH Green, deals in weatherization and energy efficiency. Weatherizing homes in Buffalo is giving families a chance. A warmer, more efficient home is extra money in their pockets. It’s a chance to use utility money for a dance class, a tutor, or a rare night out. Being able to focus on homework, each other, or a family movie is a gift and the time is better spent doing that then trying to wrap your home in plastic and hope for the best.
This is my long-winded but necessary way of saying that I’m in awe of the work we do here. We work to give people a fighting chance.
What is a challenge you’ve faced professionally and how did you overcome it?
The challenges I faced that hit me hardest was in the very beginning of my young professional life. My father passed away when I was 19 and my mom when I was 20. Neither had much money to leave behind and I was still years away from being done with school.
However, Zenna and Art Nephew were so influential in my life and I wanted nothing more than to make them proud, so I pushed through. I was going to school full time, working at Wilson Farms close to 30 hours a week, and interning like crazy, trying to network and learn everything I could. In my final semester at Buffalo State, I was interning at Eric Mower and Associates and at Time Warner Sports Network. I also worked for the Buffalo Bills on Sundays in their Media Relations department and in the Buffalo State College Athletics Department. I was 22 years old.
I had a lack of resources and was emotionally distressed at a poignant time in my training for a professional life. I overcame it all knowing what my parents sacrificed for their daughters. I felt I owed it to them to power through and have a professional life. It feels weird to say, but even in death, they are the reason I am where I am, today.
How did you become involved in the Leadership Buffalo Rising Leaders program, and what did you get most out of participating in it?
I was interested in going through Leadership Buffalo because I had actually done Youth Leadership in 2005 and my mom was a graduate of the program in 2003. She had always insisted that it was one of the best things she did because she was introduced to know facets of Buffalo, new ways to help make a difference, and new people who were worth knowing. So I decided I’d do the same! And you know what, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – because that’s exactly what I got out of it, too.
As they say in the LB office, it’s a great program if you want to make Buffalo better. And I do. I really do.
What is something you’d like to see happen in Western New York in the next 5-10 years?
There needs to be a serious overhaul in the Buffalo Public School District. I’ll admit that I don’t have any or all the answers but I can identify this as a major problem. HarborCenter and the boom of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus are all great, and we’ve turned Buffalo into a “great place to stay for a bit,” but if you want folks to live here, for Buffalo to be sustainable, our public education needs to go beyond where it is today. It needs to flourish without falling into the system of haves and have-nots. It needs to be amazing for all of our students, so that we have an equitable and sustainable school system.
What’s one thing that few people know about you?
When I was 16, I took a human development course at Cornell University where I learned about reproduction and the development of a fetus. From there I aimed to go into obstetrics and gynecology. However, my first year at Canisius College, I realized I was not talented in biology, so medical school probably wasn’t for me.
Since then, I’ve consumed everything I can on the history and politics of reproductive health, natural birthing techniques, and how pregnancy and maternal health is viewed around the world. I’m learning so much that I’m considering training to become a NYS-certified Doula. So, when my friends see me in all these child birth and maternity care groups on Facebook, it’s not because I’m pregnant – I’m fascinated in natural birthing, maternal care, and fetal care and development.