Black History Month Employee Spotlight: Meet Samantha Walker

If there is one word to describe Samantha Walker, it would be trailblazer. Faced with many obstacles growing up, she found a way to turn these challenges into steppingstones for success. As the first person in her family to graduate from high school and college, Samantha defied the odds and blazed a trail for herself and those who would follow. Transitioning from an upbringing in East Cleveland to the broader horizons of higher education wasn’t easy, but it sparked a passion for learning and personal growth that would shape her future endeavors. 

While her early years were marked by a quiet determination to succeed, Samantha’s true transformation began later in life when she discovered new passions, particularly in the realms of social media, photography and networking. Coming from a community where everyone knew each other, networking and meeting new people did not come naturally to her. It was a skill she developed over time, ultimately finding herself at the forefront of fashion shows, black-tie galas and high-profile networking events. When she is not advising at Maple Heights High School, Samantha is a social media influencer and is part of a podcast group, titled “The Pull Up Experience Podcast”, that highlights entrepreneurs in Cleveland. 

Amid her fast-paced lifestyle, Samantha remains grounded by her admiration for her mother, a single parent who raised three daughters and played a pivotal role in shaping Samantha’s character. Her mother’s strength in the face of adversity, including two battles with breast cancer, serves as a constant source of inspiration for Samantha, reminding her of the importance of resilience and perseverance. 

Another significant influence in Samantha’s life was her high school marching band director, Donshon Wilson, while she performed as a flag girl. Serving as a father figure and mentor, Wilson encouraged Samantha to embrace her true self and pursue her passions with confidence. She credits him for shaping her into the “introverted extrovert” she is today. 

Samantha’s journey has come full circle as she channels her passion for education and mentorship into her role at College Now. With 14 years of experience in the education field, she is committed to making a difference in the lives of students, drawing from her own experiences to provide guidance, support and encouragement. For Samantha, her greatest reward is being a witness to the transformation of her students and knowing that she played a part in shaping their futures. 

As she continues to inspire and uplift others, Samantha remains true to herself, guided by the invaluable advice to “be yourself” and “advocate for yourself.” She says, “I noticed that the more I started becoming myself, I became happier, less stressed and more fulfilled in the things I was doing.” Her journey from a shy, introverted girl to a confident, empowered woman serves as a beacon of hope for the youth she works with. Looking ahead, Samantha is determined to establish a program for inner-city youth, focusing on building self-esteem, character and resilience. She recalls programs established in her city growing up that served these purposes but notes that these programs came and went and none of them stayed as a consistent resource for her and her peers who needed them. Through her work at College Now, Samantha’s mission is first and foremost to provide a safe space for her students. She hopes to continue to serve as a safe space for students, similar to what she needed growing up. 

Samantha’s journey shows that life rarely happens as planned. She recalls in a tongue-in-cheek manner that she made a promise to herself when she was younger that she’d never work in education or with youth. Today, she serves as a mentor to many of her former students, as many of them even call her “mom”. As she continues to navigate life’s twists and turns, one thing remains certain: Samantha’s journey is far from over and her impact will be felt for years to come.