First-Gen Voices, Part 1: Samantha

This Friday, May 27 is Proof Point Day, a time to bring visibility and voice to the hundreds of thousands of first-generation college graduates in the United States.


We are so proud to see a national initiative that honors those who are the first in their family to graduate college. 92% of Summer Searchers are first-gen, and as the #ProofPointDay mission states, first-gen leaders are “worthy of celebration — being the first wasn’t easy.” That’s an understatement!

So, in the spirit of #ProofPointDay, here is the first of three inspiring Summer Searchers who are indeed proof points of first-gen success.

Samantha Lee


Samantha’s leadership skills were developed at a very young age, as she grew up raising herself, her younger siblings and caring for her elderly grandmother while her mother worked long hours as a waitress to support the family of seven.

Like many first-gen students, Samantha was not exposed to a college-going culture in her community. As she explained in her alumni keynote speech at last week’s Summer Search Silicon Valley Gala, “I was a soon-to-be first generation college student, which meant there was no personal network for advice or guidance, much less financial or cultural support. My parents believed that a woman like me had no need for college.”

Despite these challenges, Samantha persevered, with a little help from Summer Search.

Her summer trips helped her build courage and learn to be mindful and appreciative of the present, and the mentoring she received jump-started a drive towards self-healing and growth.

Summer Search nurtured my own personal growth, giving me the care and support I didn’t think I could ever have. By helping me break the victim mentality that I didn’t deserve better or that better didn’t exist, I was able to help my family make healthy decisions, no matter how hard they were.”

Samantha-Lee-RwandaSamantha in Rwanda on her second summer trip in 2009.

When it came time to apply to college, Samantha continued that personal growth momentum, working hard with her mentor and college advisor to apply to 13 different schools. And, as she proudly told the Silicon Valley Gala guests, “I received a full-ride to Colgate University and went on to get my Bachelor’s for Sociology, Anthropology and Chinese and graduated with a 3.8 GPA.”

Samantha has always been a leader in her family. She has even helped guide her younger sister and brothers to college, and through her and her sister’s educational journey, helped her mother “gain a new perspective on women in higher ed, and she is an avid supporter of our education today.”

#ProofPointDay is all about creating vocal and visible examples of what’s possible. Samantha showed her family that despite difficult circumstances, graduating college was in fact possible. And now, when she is not working at her day job at a cyber security software company in San Mateo, California, Samantha is that same strong and courageous example for our Summer Search family.

Tune in tomorrow for our next inspiring First-Gen Voice!

3 thoughts on “First-Gen Voices, Part 1: Samantha”

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