Samantha Martinson

Samantha decided at an early age that she wanted to study Social Work and be advocate for youth. Growing up in a family of five who regularly struggled with finances, relied heavily on programs like WIC, and who many times was evicted from their home – she wanted to share her passion and empathy with others going through the same trials she experienced as a child.

Samantha heard about the YMCA’s Reach & Rise Mentoring Program while in class at MSUM. For her class’s service learning project, she decided to apply to be a volunteer mentor for the YMCA’s program and soon became a positive role model to four middle school girls, all of whom are experiencing major transitions, and who come from non-English speaking families.

The Reach & Rise Mentoring Program is a national YMCA program that launched in Fargo in 2012. The ‘therapeutic’ mentoring program matches at-risk youth with caring and supportive adult mentors. Mentors are paired with small groups of youth ages eight to fifteen that may be challenged by social issues like poverty, crime, substance abuse and single parent households – or may simply lack supportive friendships, role models or confidence.

“I really want to pay it forward,” Samantha says with passion. “I specifically remember a social worker from Social County Services who came into our home when I was eight and helped me to overcome some of my anxiety and lack of confidence.” Samantha loves helping people and wants to make a positive impact in their lives. She explained that Reach & Rise as a perfect fit for her because she wanted to be a part of a program that helps with preventative work versus helping youth who are coming out of the juvenile detention system, for example. “I love seeing how the activities we do and the things we work on, like self-image, self-identity and independence are being applied the girls’ lives outside of the group.”

“One person can change another person’s life,” Samantha says, “so I just want to be that person as much as I can.”