UNCG Senior Madison Sampson still remembers the faces of the teenage volunteers who came to the homeless shelter where her family stayed when she was in middle school. They came from a local church, and they would sing songs or do arts and crafts with her and the other children. It’s hard to remember their names after all these years, but she will never forget the impact they had on her. Those volunteers showed her the power of bringing a smile to another person’s face – especially when that person was facing hardships. That’s something she does now, as a mentor and volunteer, and it’s something that she hopes to do throughout her life.
Madison came to UNCG from her hometown of Charlotte, NC with the goal of becoming a teacher. She is majoring in anthropology with a license in secondary educational and a minor in history. She was accepted into the NC Teaching Fellows program, which provides scholarship funds, professional development, and networking opportunities to college students who commit to teaching in-state. A service trip this past January to a refugee center in Atlanta awoke in her a more specific passion – empowering refugees through education. It was a service trip she hadn’t planned on going on until a professor approached her about some last-minute spots.
“I’ve had a lot of experiences working with the homeless population, but working with refuges to that to a whole other level. It was really incredible….when you’re trying to teach a 35-year-old from Burma how to say ‘penny’ and what that penny means, and how to take this penny and convert it into enough money to catch the bus, and then what is a bus. It’s an entirely different set of needs, and I believe that I have heart and patience for it.”
“I think that my experience being in such need of service – growing up and seeing how much my family needed help, being in and out of homeless shelters, needing federal assistance, watching my family go through..it’s just..it was a hard thing to see, especially being a child and not knowing how to respond or what’s going on, or not being in control. It always made me want to be the person on the other side, because I knew how much they helped me.”
While her family is doing better these days, Madison still holds down three jobs to help with college. On top of school and work, Madison is also a campus leader. She is an alumna of the ROOTS Institute and LeaderShape. She has been a volunteer with Freedom Schools, where served as a role model for youth. She is also the Vice President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
“Being in a sorority – the idea of like-minded minority women coming together to do service, and still striving for excellence and scholarship – I was really attracted to that. And I felt like, if there are people out there striving for great things just like me, why not try to associate with some brains that you can bounce ideas off of and that can inspire you to be motivated. They’re just a great support system.”
Madison’s community-based service and leadership resulted in her receiving the Pamela A. Wilson Scholarship, which was created in memory of a former director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. She was a member of the UNCG community for twelve years and was known as a friend, mentor, and role model for countless students.
“Someone talked to me about how selfless she was and how awesome she was and that she was a member of my sorority, and how proud she would be of me if I got to meet her. I just wish I could say thank you. This whole idea of legacy – I feel like now I’m a part of hers. I’m just so honored. The thought that I’m representing her means so much to me.”
Madison has already become a mentor for her peers at UNCG. She encourages her friends and the members of her sorority to become great.
“I want to see more people involved in service projects, I want to encourage people to do leadership seminars and tap into being a great person – whatever it takes. I lost hope in myself a lot of times, because being in college is a challenge. But if it wasn’t for people pushing me, or just exposing me to things that I might not have been interested in , then I don’t know where I’d be today. So, my goal is just to reach out and talk to as many people as possible and expose them to opportunities. Because you never know what trip is going to change their life, or inspire them to do something great. And I love it, because that’s what being at UNCG is all about.”
This summer, Madison plans to work with the Center for New North Carolinians to gain more experience working with refugees. She hopes to graduate in 2014 and then either join the Peace Corps or attend graduate school. If she does go into the Peace Corps, she hopes to be sent to Africa.
“I feel like that region has always spoken to me. I need to be there – I will be there sometime in the near future. On my bucket list is to build a school, and I would love to build a school somewhere in that region because Africa just has a very interesting history, and I just feel like they need a lot of love.”
Madison’s dreams aren’t small. In the future she’d like to run for a political position. She would like to someday become the US Secretary for Education. She’s still optimistic, and believes she can make a difference. Madison knows that her life today reflects the hundreds of people who have supported her in some way – from those volunteers at the shelter to her professors, sorority sisters, scholarship donors and more. The way she sees it, that means she has a lot of work to do to repay their efforts.
“My family, when I first moved to North Carolina we had a lot of financial troubles. So experiencing poverty and homelessness in North Carolina, and then getting scholarships to come to school just opened my eyes. Then I heard a quote that was basically about – you have to help more than the number of people that helped you. If I look back on my life and think of the hundreds of people who did something to contribute to a scholarship that I have received, or just a helping hand or a handout..I have a lot of people that I have to serve before I die. So service is always going to be something I’m doing.”