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Forever Family

by Samantha Johnson
Most Valuable Student Scholar


My name is Samantha and I am from Annawan, Illinois. I was a 2017 Top 20 Most Valuable Student Finalist and I will be starting school at Loyola University Chicago in the fall. I plan to major in Biology on a pre-health track.

Sam Politano (Left) and I (Right).
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a week in Chicago with 15 of my fellow Elks scholars. When I first arrived, I was a little nervous. I had never met any of these people and I wasn't sure what it was going to be like to live with strangers for the next week. 

However, they weren't strangers for long. By the time we were ready for bed that night, we had become friends who had more in common than we could've imagined. We all fit together wonderfully, and throughout the week the relationships continued to build off of the foundations that were established right away. We learned from each other's experiences and we shared our thoughts and feelings. We had meaningful conversations and we also joked around and had sing-a-longs on the bus. We shared and we listened. We laughed and we cried. We didn't hesitate to hug or hold hands or high five. We supported each other and encouraged each other. In a matter of about 538,000 seconds, we became a family.

Equally as rewarding as the meaningful conversations and meeting my new family was the service I got to participate in alongside my fellow scholars. We served at various Chicago organizations and my eyes were opened to a side of Chicago I had been fairly blind to. 


I've been to Chicago on multiple occasions, but I've never taken the time to put myself in parts of the city that are not as privileged. Being able to serve people who are struggling was both humbling and eye opening. It erased the prejudices I had formed in my mind regarding people experiencing homelessness and I became acutely aware of just how big of a problem homelessness is.

Perhaps one of the most powerful experiences for me was eating lunch with one of the women I met at Breakthrough Ministries. She was very open and warm. She shared stories about her life and talked of the struggles she experienced due to a disability. It was a very humbling experience, and it made me even more aware of the individuality of people experiencing homelessness.
Serving with my #ElksFamily.

From the new friendships formed to the service performed, my heart was full and I was changed. I became even more inspired to stay involved with the Elks National Foundation and to meet more members of my Elks family. I came home with new friends and a reinvigorated desire to serve the people around me. 

It's amazing what can happen in 538,000 seconds, and it's hard to imagine without partaking in the experience. I would highly recommend participating in an Elks Scholar Service Trip and connecting with your fellow Elks scholars. I know I will definitely be participating in another Service Trip and I look forward to meeting more Elks scholars on my campus and in the surrounding community. There truly is no bond like that shared by members of the #ElksFamily.


We know Elks scholars are dedicated to service. Now, they have the opportunity to come together in service with their Elks scholar peers. The Elks National Foundation offers three Elks Scholar Service Trips per year for up to 20 Elks scholars each. These trips provide scholars the opportunity to learn about societal issues, serve those in need in the name of the Elks, and connect with their Elks family from across the country. For more information about the trips, visit enf.elks.org/scholarservicetrips

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