“When you know your WHY, your WHAT has more impact because you’re walking in or towards your purpose.”

The aforementioned quote was shared with some educators attending a leadership conference on inspiring students to succeed by comedian Michael Jr.

After pondering that quote for a while, I began to understand its relevancy in regards to the things that others do. And, it doesn’t matter the age of the individual.

I mention this because over the weekend, I had the opportunity to interact with Samantha (Sammie) Vance, a twelve-year-old gifted Blackhawk Middle School student who generated the “Buddy Bench” project while attending Haley Elementary School at the impressionable young age of eight.

Samantha indicated that it was at summer camp where she heard about the “Buddy Bench,” where if someone is lonely, he/she can sit on the bench and someone could connect and ask the person to play. This she said would help inspire kindness and demonstrate friendship.

With the help of her mom, Heidi Vance, Samantha found a company called Green Tree Plastics in Evansville, IN, where recycled plastic caps and lids were constructed into benches.

To complete her mission, Samantha discovered she would need almost ten 55-gallon drums of plastic caps and lids. So, she began this daunting task by advertising her project to get others on board to assist with this endeavor.

Soon everyone was collecting plastic caps and lids. Haley Elementary School collected. The community collected. And, Samantha’s Girl Scout Troop helped sort lids and caps. Samantha also received caps and lids from all 50 states as well as Mexico. And, because of the input of others, Samantha was able to collect enough caps and lids in only two months!

Realizing everything has a price, I wanted to know what the price tag for such a project was. Thus, Samantha shared that she was able to procure each bench for $200, and received contributions from others, and BIGBBYS Coffee along with another major gift donor were her sponsors.

Samantha recently held a signing of her newly released book, “Inspire the World: A Kid’s Journey to Making a Difference,” at Haley Elementary School on Aug. 27.

In her book, Sammie shares how she’s encouraging others through recycling, community, giving, determination, bravery, helping, being herself and celebrating. She wants to inspire the world one kid at a time. Fort Wayne Community Schools purchased a copy of Sammie’s book for each of the district’s elementary and middle schools.

That which was most impressive about Samantha during our conversation was that she indicated she did not embark on this project for fame or notoriety; she did it to make a difference! And, she has!

Because of her selflessness, industriousness, and creativity, she has been offered a college scholarship by two Indiana colleges, made television appearances, conducted book signings, received numerous awards, and now has a Junior Achievement Award named in her honor.

After interviewing Samantha, as one certified in K-12 Gifted and Talented Education, I can attest to the fact that Samantha fulfills all the qualities of giftedness.

She possesses a strong sense of curiosity, is sensitive, has a mature sense of humor, is very enthused about unique topics and comprehends material several grade levels above her peers, and above all, she is compassionate. In addition, Samantha enjoys music, English/Language Arts and art. And she, of course, is a voracious reader, who has participated in the Allen County Reading Association Young Authors Conference and the ACPL Poetry Contest.

Yes, Samantha knew her why, and with a little help from her family, her friends, her community, and her fellow countrymen, she walked in her purpose and made an impact.

We are told to train up a child the way he should go. And at this juncture Heidi and Jeremy Vance, who are parenting three others along with Samantha, have demonstrated this as well as what exceptional parents are as I was so willingly informed by a former student, now industrious educator Laurie Bailey.

The Waynedale News Staff
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Marcelia Garvin

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