SALEM, Va. — Imagine that you are 10 years old when you finally find the courage to tell your teacher about some problems you have been having at home. Then your world falls completely apart.
Eight years ago, this happened to Samantha. As a result of her revelation, she was removed from her home. After transitioning to several different programs, she came into the care of HopeTree Family Services. Along the way, she had developed substantial anger issues. Constantly aggressive and eager for confrontation, Samantha’s future looked as dismal as her early childhood.
“When I came into care I was so horrible,” recalled Samantha. “I was mean beyond belief. I was ready to fight anything. I wasn’t going to school and I was home schooled for a year. I wasn’t going to graduate; I was going to drop out of school. I was sent to Richmond for anger management and they worked with me three times a day, every day for six months. When I was discharged from Richmond, I came here [her foster home] and turned all that anger into my schooling and that’s how I found my outlet.”
Once Samantha had her anger under control, she was able to face another fear that had plagued her since the situation of her removal started.
“I was scared of foster care when I was growing up,” she says. “When I came to HopeTree Family Services Foster Care, I realized it was a stable home and a stable environment. I don’t have to worry about moving or finding my next meal, or sleeping in a car. I can actually live my life and accomplish something. That was the best of all.”
Using school as the outlet for her anger led to a remarkable academic career. The formerly anger-ridden non-achiever suddenly blossomed into an academic powerhouse who performed so well she was able to skip the entire 11th grade. As sophomore she took a senior level astronomy class, then as a senior was taken on as an unofficial teacher’s assistant in that class. This past spring, Samantha graduated from Liberty High School with a total of three academic letters; an award given to students who maintain an overall minimum 3.75 GPA for the year.
“I love science. I love data and making charts. Anytime in English class we were told to explain something, I’d draw out a chart. It made my teachers so mad,” Samantha recalls with a chuckle.
Samantha says science is her favorite subject primarily because of its concrete nature. Generally speaking, things can either be proven or disproved. Anything that provides a high degree of certainty can be a godsend to someone who has experienced an ultimate form of betrayal. Also, Samantha says there is a spiritual basis for her appreciation of science.
“One of the reasons I love science is that science leads you to God. If you look at everything in this world and how it’s all made and how it all works, you can’t help but realize it is the way it is because God made it.”
With her high school career concluded, Samantha looks forward to college where she plans to major in biology before pursuing a master’s degree in zoology. With an eye on studying venom and toxins, Samantha seeks a way to use substances normally associated with pain to actually ease suffering. She wants to help people escape painful situations much like the one she escaped not so many years ago.
“I was not on a good road and I feel like God put me in this place for a reason and now I have to follow that path through,” she said. “Foster care saved my life.”
Mark Early (email@example.com) is director of communications for HopeTree Family Services.