Syracuse Student Receives Community Service Honor

Meet Samaia Goodrich, the 11-year-old philanthropist and humanitarian tied into one.

This diligent sixth grader could be seen packing groceries, along with other volunteers, to distribute door to door to families, as part of Reach Saturday, a project of Abundant Life Christian Center held April 13.

After one hour, 403 grocery bags were completed.

For Samaia, such activities are a part of her usual Saturday.

Samaia got the gene for community service at a young age when she would accompany her parents, Anthony and Akua, to their after-school program at Syracuse, where children were taught the essentials of participating in community-led efforts such as clean ups, providing for the homeless and taking on responsibility for community growth and leadership. Both have been actively involved in the Syracuse community for more than two decades after having started the after-school program in 1998.   

Maya Monds, Samaia Goodrich, Maria Thornton and May Carter pack groceries. | Muhammad A. Nomani, Staff Photographer

“After she was born, I went back to the afterschool program,” Akua said. “She grew up in the program… Even when in Pre-K, she always had a heart for the betterment of people.”

After Hurricane Maria hit and devastated families, Samaia felt it was her calling to go out and help. At 9, she spearheaded a project to help by gathering 60 volunteers and raising funds for those affected by the hurricane. The volunteers collected more than $5,000 for affected families in hopes of brightening up their Christmas. This included setting up donation boxes, distributing fliers and sending letters to businesses about the effort. This effort earned Samaia the Prudential Spirit of Community Award.

Samaia receives the Prudential Spirit of Community medallion at Expeditionary Learning Middle School March 29 presented by Kenneth Walcyk, Prudential Financial. | Provided Photo

Akua says Samaia has always been inclined towards solution-oriented approaches. For her, identifying the problem is only the first step, her mother described. It has always fascinated both Samaia’s parents to see her leadership acumen and the need to do good for the people she’s around.

“She’s a servant leader,” said Akua, explaining that Samaia leads with her heart. “She is not selfish.”

Even at such a young age, Samaia has developed a name for herself. Her selflessness in all her community effort speaks through her work.

“I have always loved to help and give to others,” said Samaia, who was the first student from Syracuse to have won the Prudential award.

As a 2019 Honoree, Samaia has been invited to Washington, D.C., along with 101 additional State Honorees for a four-day trip in early May for special recognition. There she will receive $1,000 and be considered for one of 10 national awards.

Samaia also founded the Let Our Voices Echo (LOVE) Project. The aim of this project in Samaia’s words is to “learn to love ourselves, each other and the community through service.”

Both Samaia’s parents, appreciate their daughter’s love for community work. Being the youngest out of three siblings and their only daughter, they said they wanted to ensure she’s able to do what she wants to in life.

“She was always the giver, always wanted to see if other kids were OK, sharing her toys with them,” Anthony said.

He also wants Samaia to know that while she is a rising star in the community, there is a bigger aspect to all of this for which she is made.

“We’re going to make sure that she enjoys her childhood, but she has to understand that she has a call on her life,” he said. “So, she has a responsibility to answer to that call.”

Aside from the Love Project, this year, Samaia also received the Youth Community Service Award from Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated, a sorority found in 1981 by seven Syracuse women to encourage and start community service efforts, scholarships and help locals in need.

According to the family, Samaia is always looking for the next thing she could get involved in to make the community better. Her parents continue to support her along this journey by doing anything they can to help, whether it be driving her to Saturday morning volunteering opportunities to providing her financial and emotional support.

Anthony said that while it sounded cliché, the best advice he gives his daughter is to always be humble and know that her purpose is bigger than her.

“You treat others how you want to be treated,” Anthony tells his daughter. “Lead by example.”

Follow Samaia and the Let Our Voices Echo Project on Twitter @youthservenow

— Article by Muhammad A. Nomani, Staff Reporter

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