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Against all odds: Samantha’s journey of perseverance and inspiration

Samantha Nino’s journey to becoming a teacher began at age 6 and led her right to the doors of University of Houston – Clear Lake (UHCL).

According to Nino, she became intrigued with the profession after volunteering to monitor her first-grade peers while their teacher stepped away. 

“It felt right being in front of a class, even as a first-grader,” she said.

Although Samantha was determined to fulfill her dream, she faced many challenges along the way. Her rearing began in the Rio Grande Valley, a border town in the southernmost region of South Texas. According to Samantha, she often struggled to focus on her education due to factors outside her control.

“My family and I lived on welfare, and we slept in an RV for the first six years of my life,” said Samantha. “Life in South Texas was hard, and good pay was scarce, so my family moved to Houston for bigger and better opportunities. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but after eight years, five kids, and a new town with bigger dreams, I decided to enroll at Lee College.”

After giving birth to her son, Samantha began to face financial challenges and mental health issues. 

“I struggled to pay bills, parent, and not lose myself, so I decided to enroll in a free Zumba class. I loved it so much,” she said. “After a few sessions, I made my way to the front of the class and now teach the class. It was my way of inspiring and empowering women of all ages,” she added.

After receiving an associate degree in applied science, Samantha enrolled at UHCL. During her second year, her 13-year-old daughter, Abigail, suddenly became ill, which caused Samantha to take a detour in her educational journey.

Several tests later, Abigail was diagnosed with psoriasis of the liver.

 “I immediately went into a state of shock,” said Samantha. “I went from having a healthy, vibrant child to practically living in the hospital while also juggling fall semester classes. I was ready to give up on everything.”

Although the road was tough and her life had changed, Samantha said she remembered what her parents had instilled in her as a child. 

“My parents were my biggest cheerleaders,” she said. “They instilled in me the value of an education and often reminded me that it was the only way out of our situation.”

Her yearning to inspire and teach others has led her one step closer to fulfilling her dream of becoming a teacher. In December, Samantha will receive a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies.

Whether studying, spending time with family, working with children, or teaching Zumba classes, Samantha wishes to leave her mark on the world by motivating others and encouraging them to never give up on their dreams.

For more information about UHCL’s College of Education, visit www.uhcl.edu/education/. For more information about Fall 2023 Commencement visit, www.uhcl.edu/academics/commencement/.