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Sam McGee

9285

Bold Points

45x

Nominee

7x

Finalist

1x

Winner

Bio

I define myself as a dreamer, artist, activist, and environmentalist. When I asked my friends how they define me, they described me as compassionate, empathetic, thoughtful, creative, determined, dependable, intellectual, and genuine. Kind words that I aspire to live up to. --- Growing up in a low-income family with a single mom, I knew that we were always in an uncertain position and that my future depended on my performance in school. Because of this, I grew up really valuing and working hard for my education, knowing that with a good education, one day I can support myself, as well as help make positive change in the world. As a result of my hard work, I was accepted into Virginia Tech in 2022. Unfortunately, right before my high school graduation, my family lost our home. Since then, my housing situation has continued to be rocky, with no permanent home. As scary as this can be, I don't let it keep me down. I've worked several jobs to make ends meet, and have taken out loans to help with school. Now, with two roommates, I'm finally going to be moving into my own place this fall, for the first time in years. However, it's still been a struggle to save enough money for my college education. I had to take out several loans to cover the cost of my first two years, and I know the weight that student loans put on a person over time, so I hope to avoid more as much as possible by working hard to earn savings. I cannot measure the depth of my gratitude for you just considering me for your scholarship. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping me to achieve my dreams.

Education

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Bachelor's degree program
2022 - 2027
  • Majors:
    • Architecture and Related Services, Other
  • Minors:
    • Environmental Design

Damascus High

High School
2018 - 2022

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Bachelor's degree program

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Architecture and Related Services, Other
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Architecture & Planning

    • Dream career goals:

      Senior Architect - Environmentally Sustainable Architectural Design.

    • Dog Sitter / Housesitting

      Rover and Independent
      2023 – Present1 year
    • Data Entry / Solar Panel Salesperson Assistant

      SunRun
      2022 – Present2 years
    • Babysitter/Nanny

      Independent and Care.org
      2016 – Present8 years

    Sports

    Weightlifting

    2022 – Present2 years

    Skateboarding

    2020 – Present4 years

    Climbing

    2008 – 20168 years

    Mixed Martial Arts

    Intramural
    2013 – 20174 years

    Awards

    • 9 Belts

    Track & Field

    Club
    2014 – 20151 year

    Awards

    • Completion of 5k Award

    Archery

    Intramural
    2016 – 2016

    Awards

    • Completion of Course

    Research

    • Health Professions Education, Ethics, and Humanities

      AP Capstone — Researcher
      2021 – 2021
    • Environmental/Natural Resources Management and Policy

      AP Capstone — Researcher
      2020 – 2021
    • Political Science and Government

      AP Capstone Program — Researcher
      2020 – 2021
    • Agricultural/Animal/Plant/Veterinary Science and Related Fields, Other

      Independent/Volunteer Research — Researcher
      2018 – 2018

    Arts

    • Virginia Tech College of Architecture, Arts, and Design

      Design
      Traditional Drawings/Draftings, Digital Designs/Models/Renderings/Draftings, Wood Productions, Concrete and Plaster Productions, Chipboard Productions, Wire Sculptural Productions, Fabric Sculptural Productions, Pin-Ups
      2022 – Present
    • Self Taught

      Illustration
      Traditional and Digital
      2009 – Present
    • Damascus High School

      Ceramics
      Signature Stamps/Maker's Mark, Hanging Jewelry Organizer, Planter Pots, Hanging Planter, Sculpted Ceramic Mushroom Beads (Necklace & Earrings Set)), Low Flower Vase w/ Sculptural Additions, Watering Bell & Water Basin, Spiderweb Yarn Bowl w/ Sculptural Additions, Turtle Sculpture, Dragon Mug, Sculpted Name Wall Plaque, Mini Tea Set, Various Additional Cups & Bowls
      2020 – 2022
    • Something Earthy Pottery

      Ceramics
      Constellation Clock, Yarn Bowl, Sound Amplifier/Speaker, Ceramic File Organizer, Owl Vase, Ring Holder, Various Cups & Bowls
      2017 – 2019
    • John T Baker Middle School (Chambers Chorus)

      Music
      Concerts multiple times a year.
      2016 – 2018

    Public services

    • Advocacy

      Gender and Sexualities Alliance (DHS GSA) — President, Member, and Leader/Organizer of a Protest
      2018 – 2022
    • Volunteering

      Star Gazing Farm Animal Sanctuary — Clean animal living spaces + water troughs + food/water bowls, distribute animals' food and medicine, pull poisonous weeds, restock hayloft, groom and trim the nails of bunnies, sweep, repaint fences, give tours or run the kids' table during events, etc.
      2016 – 2021
    • Volunteering

      Mu Alpha Theta - Math Honors Society — Member/Math Tutor
      2018 – 2020
    • Volunteering

      National Honor Society — Member/Tutor
      2020 – 2021

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    Entrepreneurship

    Isaac Yunhu Lee Memorial Arts Scholarship
    Designing a cemetery is perhaps one of the most serious tasks and honoring opportunities that an architect can undertake. It's a task that requires respect, humility, and thorough consideration of what influence spirituality, the local community, and history will have on the design of the cemetery. It was special to me just to design this hypothetical cemetery. This piece is a draft I created for my project in Architecture Studio this last semester. We were assigned to create a cemetery, utilizing the topography and preexisting ruins our professor gave us, that we were to design in various steps introduced over the span of the project. The first step my professor assigned was to design a grave for one of our favorite artists. I chose the singer and songwriter known as Hozier. Andrew John Hozier-Byrne is a musical artist from Ireland known for his moving and powerful singing and lyrics in his folk songs. For his grave, I incorporated the most prominent themes in his songs, particularly those displayed in his song "In a Week", of nature and love that outlasts death, as inspiration. I designed a flat slab grave marker with two skeletons lying next to each other with their arms embracing one another, and above them, the words "So long we become the flowers" taken from "In a Week" with additional lyrics along the sides of the slab. To the side of the grave sat a bench beneath a willow tree. After designing this grave, I decided I wanted to continue these themes throughout the piece. I thought, realistically, Hozier wouldn't want to be buried any other place than in Ireland, so I started to design a cemetery that I believed he would choose as his resting place. Now with Ireland set as my site location, I researched old Irish beliefs and folklore, particularly those related to the transition between life and death. As my teacher introduced different structures and aspects for us to conceptualize, draw individually, and then add into our overall site plan: a guard tower, a "chapel", and a path, I incorporated various aspects of Irish folklore and culture, as well as the continued themes found in Hozier's songs. This impacted the orientation of the structures, my design for gargoyles, the placement and type of every tree, the inclusion of statues of The Morrigan and Donn, and more, but most importantly the chapel, which is best shown in this site plan draft. I chose to design a more figurative chapel, a grove of Ash trees, a tree of protection in Irish mythology. It is an outdoor spiritual space that anyone may visit to pay their respects and meditate on their time spent with their loved ones while feeling connected to nature and the Earth, where we will all return one day. The primary entrance to this "chapel" is through a sarsen arch, which leads the visitor to a tree of life symbol on the ground that I designed based on the native Irish Sessile Oak tree, here they may choose to sit or kneel as they pray or meditate. In front of this symbol stands a statue of The Morrigan, an old goddess from Irish folklore who is thought to be a guardian of the dead, and behind her a single grand Sessile Oak amongst the fellow Ash trees. While the primary entrance is led to with the main path, four others circle the chapel so that one may come from any direction to visit this space. It would be a dream to design a real cemetery. Perhaps one day I will get that opportunity.
    Phoenix Opportunity Award
    I am an artist because of my mom. She’s the one who inspired me to go down a creative path. When I was little and she was still trying to get her degree, she sometimes brought me to college with her, and I would watch her work and draw along with her (although at the time, my mediums were limited to Crayola). She had to drop out, but because of her, I’ve continued down this creative path and am now working to earn an architecture degree. When my parents divorced, our father was of little help to us, barely paying any child support and practically no alimony. My mom had to drop out of art school to focus on her doula work to support my sister and me. I know my mom has always done her best, but it hasn’t been easy. My sibling and I grew up coping with the heating and water being shut off sometimes because of late bills. And early on, moving homes several times, with the threat of eviction popping up every few years after we were finally in one place. Luckily, throughout my childhood, we never lost our home... However, last year, right before my high school graduation, we did. It's been really hard since then, but I never forget the lessons she’s taught me. Ever since I was little, she has told me how much she wishes that she could’ve finished college, and how much she wants me and my sister to get good college educations so that we’re not in the same stressful work situation that she’s dealt with from not having one. This is why, all my life, I have worked hard in school to get into a good college so that I can graduate with my degree and be able to support myself and my family with a stable career. Right now I'm doing housesitting jobs on top of my other two jobs to have a place to stay as well as to earn some extra money to put towards my tuition. Earning my degree is incredibly important to me and to my mother, so I'm working hard to ensure that I am able to stay in my architecture program and avoid as much debt as possible by working multiple jobs this summer. When I graduate and walk that stage, I’ll know I’ve made her proud.
    Robert F. Lawson Fund for Careers that Care
    The word architect is not one that we typically associate with the words help and care. We typically associate these words more with doctors or teachers. But I hope to one day help change the future of the word architect. I've known for about seven years now that this is the career path that I'm destined to follow. When I first chose this path, I saw it as just a wonderful fusion between my interests in math and the arts. But now, I see it as so much more than that. I see it as a path that will allow me to help so many people, as well as help our planet. In my lifetime, I want to help improve as many people’s quality of life as I can. People are all so unique, each with so many different aspects to them that affect their lives. And the fact of the matter is that most people’s homes are not suited to their specific needs, and therefore sometimes become another place of stress, rather than one of comfort. I believe that by working on customized home designs that suit individuals' and families' specific needs, I will be able to help greatly improve many people’s lives. How I will customize the design of someone's home will extend in many ways. For example, if someone has a physical disability that hinders or alters their mobility and needs, I will consider ways to make their life and movement around the house easier throughout the design process. Or if I am working with a neurodivergent client, I would design a home with an alternative layout, customized to suit and assist the specific needs of that individual based on their unique daily patterns, necessities, and habits, that generic home designs are unable to cater to. Additionally, if someone has a big family, this is also something important that I would consider in the design. There are so many different factors in a person’s life and aspects of who they are. And being someone who is neurodivergent, queer, indigenous, and the child of a single mother, I am used to looking at the world through various lenses. This is a big part of why I believe I will be perfect for this type of job as it will help me be able to listen to different people and understand how they will need and want different things from their homes, and why I believe that I will be able to make such a positive impact through this line of work. I believe that focusing on assisting the specific client is incredibly important in my designs, but this is not where my goals stop. I also want to prioritize doing my part to help humanity as a whole. Once I get my degree in architecture, it is incredibly important to me that I get to specialize in environmentally sustainable architecture. I believe it is important that we all do our part to decrease and reverse the negative impacts that we’ve had on our planet, and I know that I'm meant to do my part by focusing on sustainable design. Thus far, people have made great strides in this field, which I am excited to learn about in-depth as I continue my studies at Virginia Tech this year, and as I study abroad in a few years. But in my future career, I also want to go beyond what we already know, be innovative, and create new techniques in environmentally sustainable design. I believe that one day I can make a great positive impact on people and our planet.
    No You Did Not Win An Emi, But You Did Win This Scholarship
    Winner
    Sam. A simple name I had to fight for. Sam. A name that means so much more to me than anyone else could possibly comprehend. I didn’t always have this name. I used to be called something else. It didn’t really suit me. I grew up hearing that my mother nearly named me Jordan, and for a very long time I wished that she had. My birth-name was so feminine that it was suffocating. Not that there’s anything wrong with feminine names or femininity. But being a non-binary person who grew up constantly being told by society that I was a girl and I needed to look and behave like such (even though I knew that that didn’t feel right) made it feel almost painful to be constantly reminded that my birth-name translated to “princess”. And so, knowing that my mother had almost named me something that was perfectly androgynous, but didn’t, was upsetting, and I longed for that name: Jordan. But it wasn’t the one I was given. And it didn’t end up being the one I chose for myself either. When I was 13, I finally renamed myself with the name Sam. At first, it started off as just a nickname that came from my initials. S. A. M. I began to ask people to start calling me this instead. And after a couple of years, I realized that it just felt right, and that my old name felt more wrong than ever, to the point where I felt greatly uncomfortable every time I heard it. It was around this time that I realized that I am trans and non-binary, and I decided that Sam would be my actual name. For about five years now, I have been Sam. And for about five years now, I have finally been able to feel comfortable with my own name. Despite this, I unfortunately often still have to deal with people pushing certain assumptions and expectations onto me because of how I look and how my voice sounds. For example, I can’t count the number of times people have called me Samantha because they’ve heard that I go by Sam and I look feminine. My name is not and never has been Samantha, so this has just been a whole new level of confusing misgendering for me. It’s gotten to the point that if people jump to the conclusion that my “real” name is Samantha, I tell them that they’re wrong and that my name is Samwise. (Yup, that’s right, the character from “The Lord of the Rings”.) This is not my actual name, but this is my way of coping and making light of the uncomfortable situation I find myself in when people call me Samantha. Honestly, it’s kind of funny seeing people taken aback by this reply, but I do think that it is actually helpful as it makes people question why they assumed my name is Samantha in the first place. My name is Sam, and it means everything to me. Sam means allowing myself to be authentically me. Sam means self-love. Sam means freedom from expectations society has tried to push onto me.
    Act Locally Scholarship
    November 30th. The day I never expected to happen. On November 30 of 2021, myself, my friends, and several other LGBTQ+ students at my high school were victims of a hate crime in our GSA (Gender and Sexualities Alliance) club room. A room that was supposed to be our safe space. I will not be retelling the specific details of that day to you, as I see no reason for me to continuously relive that trauma, but rather that all you need know is that our safety was threatened that day. I will, however, share the subsequent events. Afterward, once we had taken time to process what had happened, and to check on each other and the others in the room, making sure that everyone was okay, I spoke with my GSA Vice President, and we decided we needed to plan a walkout and protest to keep our students safe and make our voices heard. To be honest, anti-LGBTQ+ behavior at our school was not uncommon. We were used to having to deal with hearing slurs in the hallways. But this had crossed a line like never before, with our safety directly threatened. And I knew that I needed to do something about it before I graduated and left the youth of our school to have to deal with these problems alone. My Vice President and I spent our weekend making posters, designing flyers, and asking trusted friends to help us spread the word about the walkout. And when it was time, we led over 200 students out. And for my small high school, that was a lot. We told everyone about what happened on November 30th, and that we won’t let hateful behavior in our school be ignored anymore. We asked for everyone's help in continuing to speak up after the protest, not letting it slide when people say hateful things in the hallways, and actually taking action to change how things are at our school. And we demanded that student safety be reprioritized by our county’s schools and that they take real action to start protecting the wellbeing of their LGBTQ+ students. We then opened the floor for others to speak. We heard from so many students who spoke about their experiences, the changes they expect to see, and their pride in who they are. Over 200 people listened. This is why I believe that what we did that day was so important. The LGBTQ+ underclassmen at our school could see how big their support was, and could see people standing up for them and doing their best to keep them safe. And our school and county could see the true reach of the impact that anti-LGBTQ+ hate has. It wasn't just those of us who were in the GSA room on November 30th that were impacted. It was every LGBTQ+ individual at our school. It was anyone and everyone who had LGBTQ+ people in their lives that they cared about. It was anyone allied with our community who supported us. And it was even LGBTQ+ and allied students at schools other than our own, who walked out at their schools in solidarity with us. I never expected the responsibility of leading a protest, and I wish that the events that made it necessary in the first place hadn’t happened. But I am so proud of what we accomplished that day, and I truly believe that it will have a lasting impact on our community and our county's schools. …But it’s not enough, not alone it isn’t. The way LGBTQ+ individuals are treated today is horrible, it’s scary, and it’s unjust. Today, because of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, since it is a precedent for so many other rulings, we are facing the threat of the right to marry as a queer person being taken away (and even the right to just exist in public as a queer person). We are in danger and we need to all raise our voices together to help the rest of the nation understand the severity of the circumstances and what’s at stake. If I had the opportunity and platform to emphasize the seriousness of what is happening, I would not stop speaking up about how we need to protect our rights and protect each other, not until we are all safe as we should be. No one deserves to go through what we did, and I will do everything in my power to keep this from happening to anyone else. We deserve to freely be who we are, and we deserve to be safe. This is the change in the world I want to see: a world where people like me, people who are different and marginalized by our society, can feel safe. Where the LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and disabled communities, people of ALL backgrounds, can feel SAFE.