McKenzie Samuels (she/her) is a second-year in the College of Arts & Sciences intending to double-major in Public Policy and African and African-American studies. McKenzie is a Peer Advisor through the Office of African American Affairs, a Resident Advisor, and an executive board member of SOCA (Student Organization of Caribbean Awareness) as Special Events Coordinator.
What led you to your service work?
I chose to become a Peer Advisor because as an out-of-state student from the Bronx, New York, adjusting to UVA was a difficult and uncomfortable experience for me. When I was struggling, my Peer Advisor and RA were always the first people I thought to turn to. I hold those positions now because I want to be that person for someone else. Additionally, I know how important it is to find a place where you feel embraced and understood – especially on a cultural level. This is why I joined SOCA – to help build a community and space where other Caribbean students like myself can feel at home.
What has been the most rewarding aspect that comes with your community involvements?
A message from one of my advisees this semester reads: “You are honestly a breath of fresh air. The advisees are really lucky to have you. And I’m glad I got a Bronx sister.” Messages like that are enough of a reward to keep me doing work like this for a lifetime. Knowing that you are making a difference and seeing that difference impact people right before your eyes – that is the greatest reward there is.
How would you encourage others to get involved?
To those looking to get involved, I say do what you care about, and do what you can. The work you do to serve others, no matter how small it may seem, truly does make a difference. Every contribution counts.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
People always seem surprised to learn that I love art and poetry. I am a proud member of FLUX Poetry and Spoken Word and am currently working on a book of my own.
What is your favorite spot on Grounds and why?
I have a lot of favorite spots, but the Fralin Art Museum is definitely at the top of my list. Sometimes I visit to get inspiration for poetry, but, generally, I just love the quiet, calming atmosphere, the building design, and the fact that every piece has a unique story to tell.
What is a book or movie you would recommend?
I recently read "Black Girl Call Home" by Jasmine Mans – it was phenomenal. That book challenged me to think introspectively and altered the way that I view myself and my own experiences. "Black Girl Call Home" makes strong, thought-provoking points about the world I identify with; reading it prompted my growth, both as an artist and a person.
If you could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?
Though everyone should be able to feasibly obtain their needs, that unfortunately is not the reality for many people. If I could, I would ensure everyone had access to the resources and opportunities that are often taken for granted. Investing in and uplifting others benefits everyone, in the end, and so making sure that everyone has what they need is the step I would take toward making the world a better place.