By Jessica Love
For many young adults, the transition to college is an exciting time – new faces, new environment and new opportunities. Even more thrilling is the love and support of family during this important phase.
For Samarya Jenkins, things were different. She had a difficult start at Claflin University – one of 11 historically black colleges and universities supported by the United Methodist Church’s Black College Fund (BCF).
Just two months into her freshman experience in 2017, Jenkins’ father died from an unknown illness. Jenkins struggled with the sudden loss of her father who was her best friend. She never imagined journeying through college without him.
In the months following, she fell into a deep state of depression.
“My transition was different because a lot of my friends have both parents. Hearing them talk to both parents after their long days – or when I did track and field, seeing them with their parents at games – was difficult,” said Jenkins.
Still, the 20-year-old South Carolina native was determined to see her college experience beyond the tragedy. She turned to the support of family members and friends.
“I had to overcome it and say that it’s okay to be where I am. I had to put my pride to the side and allow people to be in my corner,” she recalled.
Focusing on her education and her remaining support network helped Jenkins press forward.
“Education was big to my father,” Jenkins explained. “So it became the outlet I used to grow and develop my goals.”
Jenkins used education to explore things she liked and invested more into her studies. Overcoming depression and witnessing her own progress inspired her to pursue a degree in clinical counseling.
Jenkins said her experience with depression made her realize the importance of mental health.
Today, the rising junior serves as a therapeutic assistant at Brayan Psychiatric Hospital. Jenkins said she loves her work because she’s constantly encouraged to learn and interact with people in need.
“Mental health is so overlooked,” she said. “A lot of people think it means that you’re crazy or that it’s something bad, but it includes a range of things. It’s depression, stress or just needing a mental break to get yourself together…That is important because it gives us peace of mind.”
Jenkins noted that The Black College Fund, administered by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, is a key aspect of her continued educational and personal development. As a new intern, Jenkins sees the experience as “life-changing” because it allows her to step out of her comfort zone.
“The BCF is important to me because it gives me so many opportunities,” she said.
The aspiring mental health professional said the Black College Fund allows her to meet and experience people unlike her.
As a representative for the BCF, she took part in the 2019 Harambee hosted at Claflin University. Harambee is a youth conference sponsored by the Southeastern Jurisdiction Black Methodists for Church Renewal, Inc. The conference is held annually to help youth, ages 12-18, develop spiritual, leadership and interpersonal skills.
The experience brought Jenkins closer to teens from all walks of life and allowed her to talk to them about the importance of education.
“It allowed me to network…And it also allowed me to not only meet people like me, but people beyond me. I met people who didn’t look like me but had challenges just like me. I think that’s important,” Jenkins said.
By sharing her story and speaking to other young students about the support network she’s built at school, Jenkins hopes she’s helped others realize that even in the face of tragedy, they can find purpose and renewal through education.
The BCF is administered by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM). Stay tuned for more student profiles in GBHEM’s six-part series on the Black College Fund’s Lina H. McCord interns.
About GBHEM: The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to build capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call in their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.