The World According to Samantha


We all have a little bit of “I want to save the world” in us. Of course, “the world” sometimes ends up meaning something different than what we originally thought; “the world” could be a friend, a family, a community. For Samantha Pascal, it is her hometown in Haiti, which she left five years ago.

Her father, Genesee County Sheriff Deputy Prisnor Pascal, brought Samantha to Flint after the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, killing more than 160,000 people – including her mother. Samantha was severely injured, as well.

Since her arrival, Samantha has accomplished so much in so little time; she’s become proficient in English, and at Mott Community College, she made the Dean’s list every term. She is part of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, and worked at the Foreign Language Lab helping other students.

This fall, Samantha will begin studying at the prestigious Columbia University in New York City, where she’ll fit right in with her big dreams and always on-the-go nature. She received the Program for Academic Leadership and Services (PALS) Scholarship, which is awarded to first-generation college students who are minority, have financial need and who receive nominations from other people.

At Columbia, Samantha will study sustainable development through The Earth Institute program, in hopes of returning to Haiti to make a change. “It’s the idea behind what sustainable development represents,” she explains. “Coming from Haiti, I can see that the economy, the environment and the social life are all intertwined and interdependent, so in a country like Haiti that is under-developed, a person who has this knowledge could work with the government to make Haiti self-sufficient. I want to be that person. I’m Haitian; I was living there, and I know pretty much of all of the nooks and crannies of Haiti. I could go there and make a difference.”


samantha-1Samantha believes that studying sustainable development will help turn her percolating, passionate ideas into well-thought, tangible solutions. Sustainable development is “the development that meets the needs of people in the present without impacting the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs,” she says. “It brings together the environment, the economy, and social life. All of this can’t be attained without the depletion of the earth’s natural resources.”

One of her ideas, inspired by the generosity of MCC’s TRiO Student Support Services and her experiences back home with her mother, is to create a training center to provide seminars and educational opportunities for those who need basic job skills. Her own mother did not graduate high school, and once she decided to go back after Samantha was born, she still could not afford the skills classes that were offered.

Samantha hopes to make her training center more affordable, or even free. “I want people to be able to get the help that they need, to go out and get a job to take care of their kids and pay for school,” she says. “I believe if they have enough money in the economy, they’ll have enough money to advance.”

A significant source of inspiration, not excluding anyone who has helped her thus far, is her late mother. “First and foremost, I really want to make her proud,” she says. “That is what I wake up every morning and think about. What would she think of this situation – me going to this amazing college? I know she wouldn’t be able to stop talking about it. That’s what pushes me every day.”

As for learning English, immersion therapy was her primary mode of acquisition. It was quite a “set of challenges,” Samantha admits, chuckling. “All of my life, I’ve been faced with challenges and it was just one more.” True to her intrinsic desire and love of learning, her real world approach seemed to do the trick. “I like to think that I taught myself how to speak English, because really there was no one who sat down with me,” she says. “I listened to people, the way they pronounced words, the context, and how to respond, and then I started doing it myself.”

Other than academics, Samantha has had a lifetime of experiences and lessons here in Flint. “MCC was my first experience with college, and I’ve learned how to stand up for myself, to talk about something that I wasn’t comfortable with, to address the teacher about something that I didn’t understand, and to be part of a community. I learned at Mott that you can make a difference. You can be different and it’s a good thing.”

Leaving September 8 for The City That Never Sleeps, Samantha shares that she’ll miss MCC and Flint: “I am going to miss the student lab, the foreign language lab, the music classes, the library. I’m going to miss my friends, mostly.” Despite the nostalgia, she is understandably excited for her bright-as-Times-Square future. “I am moving forward. Every day when I wake up, I say to myself, ‘I am going to learn something new today’ – and it’s exciting!”

Samantha wants to thank the community of Flint, all the people who supported and helped her, especially her family, the Genesee County Sherriff Department, and HealthPlus. Although she says goodbye to Flint, we most likely haven’t heard the last from her yet. “My goal is to not only help Haiti, but any other countries that need that change,” she says. “I want to be that person who helps make a change that will be seen everywhere.”


Photography by Mike Naddeo


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