Top 10 Spotlight: Samantha Padilla Helps Others

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by Ronnie Zamora/LFCISD

A desire to help others has driven Samantha Padilla.

As the Salutatorian of the Los Fresnos High School Class of 2017, she is the leader of the Los Fresnos High School Ojo a Ojo (Eye to Eye) mentorship program which tutors freshmen at Los Fresnos United who are deemed at-risk.

“I found out that I was passionate about it and enjoyed it,” said Samantha, daughter of Samuel and Gisela Padilla. “There’s a difference you can make in these kids.”

The program was started by the LFHS salutatorian of the Class of 2015 Audrey Urbis and has continued ever since. About 40 freshmen benefitted from the free tutoring from seniors and juniors for one hour each week.

Samantha needed the help of many of her friends and other classmates whom she did not know at first.

“It was quite the honor leading 25 mentors and being able to help the freshmen,” Padilla said. “It was difficult because we had more students than we had mentors sometimes.”

The mentors would help freshmen with Algebra most of the time, but science and reading help was also needed. They would also offer guidance about post-secondary education and specific career paths, as well as encourage and motivate them to pursue higher realistic goals.

While the Ojo a Ojo program has been the most rewarding for Samantha, her love for the sport of softball was the most memorable.

She played kickball for eight years between the ages of 4 and 12 and didn’t play softball until she was in sixth grade with a club team. She started playing the sport in seventh grade at Resaca Middle School. She has taken numerous trips almost monthly to compete to club tournaments around the state.

When Samantha joined the Lady Falcons at LFHS during her freshman year, she focused on playing catcher where she has been the starter since her sophomore year.

“I like seeing the field from my perspective, knowing that whatever pitch I would call will affect the whole play,” Samantha said. “It’s like being the quarterback. I focused on catcher because I knew it’s what the team needed.”

Coach Traci Blackman trusted Samantha to call her own pitches, something not every high school catcher can do.

“Coach realized that I could analyze the batters well, knew where they stood at the plate, their form and their swing. Once you’re doing it for so long, it gets easier as you go. I studied the batters on the opposing team before every game and during the game. It’s a lot of memorization. As long as the pitcher got it into the spot I wanted, it worked out.”

Samantha cut back on other sports after her junior year to focus on softball and academics. She has been a Top 10 student since sixth grade at Resaca Middle School.

She always tried her hardest “but my grades were not as good as I wanted them to be.”

Before her freshman year, she attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes summer camp at Camp Zephyr, located near Mathis.

“That camp changed everything. I always had God in my life, but then I really let Him in. I had a big change in school and noticed that was the difference.”

She studies early each morning when her home is very quiet. “I would to bed at 8 o’clock and get up at 4.”

She has been involved in several student clubs and organizations, including RGV Lead, which helped her public speaking.

She continues to help at the Los Fresnos Volunteer Department, helping Emergency Medical Technicians, organize around the fire house, was trucks and ambulances, and run errands for the staff. Her father, who also volunteers there, is a captain at the Brownsville Fire Department.

Samantha plans to attend The University of Texas at Austin and major in chemistry on the pre-pharmacy track to become a pharmacist. She will be testing in June for certification as a pharmacy technician.

Her advice to students who seek academic success: “Take the classes you will need for your career. Work hard because you’re the only one who can make a difference in your own life.”

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