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Prepared for a Life of Service
05.07.13 |
Oates devotes her life to service.
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The first in her family to pursue higher education, graduating senior Samantha Oates knew that Lebanon Valley College was the school for her. She loved the atmosphere and felt that the professors, programs, and students were very engaging—and she had spent a lot of time on campus with her mom, Joni, who works in the Housekeeping Department on campus.

“I worked really hard in high school,” Oates said. “I just really loved being a student. It was an easy decision to go to college; my parents were always really excited and really supportive. It was scary to be the first in my family to attend since I didn’t have a model on how to go.”

Click here to watch Samantha Oates describe what it means to be the first in her family to attend college.

Oates settled in quickly on campus, focused on her studies, and immediately realized how what she was learning would help prepare her for the future. She embraced Lebanon Valley’s liberal arts tradition, pursuing a religion major and three additional minors.

“I have a business minor,” Oates said, “because I want to open a youth-oriented coffee shop. I added a minor in music due to my love of music and plan of incorporating music—worship, local bands and artists—into my coffee shop.

“I realized a minor in English literature would help me communicate,” Oates added. “I enjoy having to write and learn how to look back and reflect on what I said and edit what I’ve said, make what I say count.”

Oates came to LVC planning on majoring in music, but switched to religion after taking Dr. Jeff Robbins’ class on Islam. She said the freedom of discussion and ideas was liberating and challenging at the same time, and that Dr. Robbins pushed her to go beyond her intellectual comfort level.

“I don’t feel like I’ve ever had anyone believe in me as much as he’s believed in me. He’s always pushed me to work a little harder and do a little better and be a little more insightful about what I say and where I’m coming from.”

Part of Lebanon Valley College’s mission is to “prepare students for a life of service to others.” Oates grew up embodying that mission, and continued to serve others during her four years at LVC. She served the Lebanon community by volunteering with at-risk children at Youth For Christ. She also has participated in three LVC Alternative Spring Break service trips, willingly giving up her week off classes to work tirelessly in communities that have been battered by natural disasters. This year’s trip to the Jersey Shore was especially memorable.

“We worked for one family whose house had been completely flooded. They moved to an apartment and it had bed bugs and they had to move out. The father said, ‘my daughter’s only four months old and she’s already had four different sets of furniture.’ We thought, ‘that’s horrible, how can you possibly get through this?’ He just smiled and said, ‘I got my family.’ It was true, he had shown up with his wife, his daughter, his mom and her sister, and they were just this big, happy, loving family who had been through so much but had used it to stay together… It was just great to see how alive they were, how much they were still living and choosing to live happily and excitedly after this devastation.”

Oates describes the transformative power of community service—for herself and for others – by detailing her improving construction abilities:

“I never used power tools before the service trips – which is something that I know probably a lot of people say. But I learned that I loved using power tools, and I’ve been able to take these experiences and grow each time. The first time I was excited that I didn’t cut anything I wasn’t supposed to with the saw; the next year I could use it with a little bit of supervision; and this past year I was one of three people who attached an entire deck back to a house and made it stable after it had been dislodged. I’ve learned I can build a closet all by myself and surprisingly, closets have a lot of power with people when you’ve lost everything… You don’t realize how much a closet can mean to someone.”

“I love doing community service because it reminds me of all of the possibilities that are out there, not only for yourself, but for the people that you’re helping. I think I’ve learned that the people I visit, see, and help on volunteer trips have so much more to give me than I can offer them, and so much more to teach me.”

This summer Oates will depart for the Ukraine for an international missions project—her first community service abroad. She graduates Saturday, May 11, with 380 other LVC students at the College’s 144th Baccalaureate and Commencement ceremonies. For information, visit

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