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Samantha Stokesberry

2955

Bold Points

4x

Nominee

1x

Finalist

Bio

Empowering and equipping others is my calling. Uplifting and restoring the hurting is my passion. Stimulating change and making a lasting impact is my vision. I hope to accomplish all of these things by impacting one person at a time through clinical mental health counseling. I’ve worked with female sex trafficking survivors across the globe (Nigeria, Uganda, Canada, South Africa, and the USA), and I’ve seen the need for effective trauma counseling, restorative relationships, freedom homes (safehouses), and counselor/caregiver training. I want to be a counselor who can meet those growing needs by providing encouragement and pro bono services to those striving to heal from severe trauma, by building freedom homes for survivors, and by educating those who want to join in the fight to end human trafficking around the globe. I’ve personally experience sexual abuse and trauma, and I’ve had the privilege of experiencing healing and wholeness through counseling. I want other women to share in that same life-giving experience. I want survivors to know that it’s possible to reclaim their freedom and dignity as fierce and brave warrior princesses. I believe that choosing to light a candle is better than attempting to curse the darkness, so that is my goal - to light a candle one person at a time. I hope to spend my future, as a Licensed Professional Counselor, getting my hands and feet dirty by meeting people in the midst of their mess and extending my hand to help. And maybe one day, the ones I’ve helped will become strong enough to lead the way for others.

Education

Liberty University

Master's degree program
2018 - 2023
  • Majors:
    • Mental Health Counseling/Counselor
  • GPA:
    4

University of Central Florida

Bachelor's degree program
2009 - 2012
  • Majors:
    • Health and Physical Education/Fitness, General
  • GPA:
    3.9

Chaminade-Madonna College Prep

High School
2005 - 2009

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Counseling Psychology
    • Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling
    • Substance Abuse/Addiction Counseling
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Clinical Mental Health Counseling

    • Dream career goals:

      Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor

    • Coach/Trainer

      Fact Fitness
      2021 – 2021
    • Western Cape Outreach Coordinator

      STOP Trafficking of People
      2015 – 20194 years
    • Kickboxing Instructor

      9Round Fitness
      2020 – 20211 year
    • Therapeutic Child Care Staff

      The Refuge Ranch for DMST
      2019 – 20201 year
    • Coach/Trainer

      Primal Fit Miami
      2011 – 20132 years

    Sports

    Soccer

    Club
    2003 – 20074 years

    Flag Football

    Varsity
    2005 – 20072 years

    Awards

    • Third Team All County

    Soccer

    Varsity
    2005 – 20094 years

    Awards

    • All County Third Team, All County Second Team, MVP, Best Defender

    Research

    • Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

      Liberty University Research Team — Student Leader/Team Leader
      2020 – Present

    Arts

    • Film School South Africa

      Acting
      Youtube Videos
      2015 – 2018

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      XXXchurch — Co-Leader
      2017 – 2018
    • Advocacy

      Global Care & Response — Presenter/Teacher
      2018 – 2020
    • Advocacy

      Straatwerk — Team Member
      2015 – 2020
    • Volunteering

      Training4changeS — Coach
      2015 – 2016
    • Volunteering

      Ambassadors Football — Co-Leader/Co-Coach
      2015 – 2016
    • Volunteering

      STOP Trafficking of People — Western Cape Outreach Coordinator
      2015 – 2019

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Politics

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    Entrepreneurship

    Elevate Mental Health Awareness Scholarship
    My career dreams changed the moment I started volunteering to help survivors of sex trafficking in South Africa. My world was flipped upside down and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of trauma, pain, and modern-day slavery. I knew I always wanted to become a counselor, but I had no idea who I wanted to counsel - until I met my "survivor sisters." While volunteering with an organization called STOP (Stop Trafficking of People), I was exposed to stories that shook me to my core. The girls I built relationships with would boldly share about being sold for sex, being forced to take drugs, and being threatened with death daily. The trauma they experienced was complex and interpersonal in nature, and it caused them to doubt their humanity and lose their dignity. I knew that I wanted to help these brave and strong women reclaim their identities and their freedom. I knew I wanted to become a counselor who could help them heal. After learning more about the human trafficking industry, I discovered that depression, anxiety, dissociation, and PTSD were at the top of the mental health disorder list. These were issues that almost every single survivor faced. Flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, shame, self-hatred, suicidal ideation, panic attacks, and nightmares were daily occurrences. In addition to those challenges, these amazing girls didn't know how to relate to me. They wanted to be accepted and loved, but they didn't know how to make it happen. While working at the safehouse with eight DMST (domestic minor sex trafficking) survivors, I faced a lot of interesting challenges related to this issue. The girls would attempt to connect with me by flirting, yelling, hitting, and fighting. One second they would threaten to slash the tires on my car, and the next second they would be trying to hold my hand. I had to learn that their way of relating had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with their trauma and pain. Up until this point in time, these strong girls had never met a "safe" person. They didn't know how to have healthy relationships and they didn't know how to trust. I had to walk humbly and patiently alongside them, showing them grace and love every step of the way until it finally "clicked." I will never forget the day that one of the girls came up to me and said, "Sam, I know now that no matter how angry I get at you or how much I curse at you... you'll never hit me." At that moment, healing happened. I learned that the only way to heal relational trauma is through healthy relationships. I believe that love is powerful. I believe that grace is powerful. Choosing to walk with someone through their mess in the midst of their darkest places - and loving them and accepting them exactly as they are - is what will help them heal and find freedom. Working with sex trafficking survivors has motivated me to pursue my master's degree in clinical mental health counseling so that I can get my license to counsel these girls full time. As I study, I am trying to gain as much experience and wisdom about trauma-focused and trauma-sensitive therapy approaches. I want to venture into those dark and dreary places and shine a light for the lost and the hurting. I want my future clients to know that they matter, that they are valued, and that healing is possible. My ultimate goal is to be able to counsel survivors pro bono. Many of them can't afford to attend counseling, but I don't want that to stop them from finding wholeness. My hope is to become a clinical mental health counselor who "lights a candle" instead of cursing the darkness... because when the light shines in the darkness, the darkness will never be able to overcome it.
    Susy Ruiz Superhero Scholarship
    In 2017, I was introduced to Dr. Kyle Miller (a licensed professional counselor from Texas) at a human trafficking conference in South Africa. We were the only two Americans at the conference so our accents stuck out like sore thumbs. At the time of the conference, I had been living in South Africa for two years as a broken, hurting, and struggling soccer coach and athlete looking for purpose. Kyle was a passionate leader who saw me for who I could be, and after our first conversation, my life was changed forever. After the conference, Kyle flew back to the states and continued to help me refine my vision. He also helped me heal from my past trauma through intensive counseling. With his encouragement and guidance, I applied for graduate school to become a clinical mental health counselor. I knew I wanted to help others experience the same freedom I found. I wanted them to know that healing is possible and attainable - no matter how messy or dirty one’s life may be. Within the first year of knowing Kyle, I was accepted into my masters program, I packed up and moved back to the USA (Florida) from South Africa, and drove 19 hours to Texas to start my new life. My career path radically changed and a spark was lit within me. I was ready to make a difference in the lives of many, and I was read to be a part of something that was bigger than myself. Once I moved to Texas, I began working at a safe house for domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) survivors. I was volunteering with nonprofit organizations to raise awareness about human trafficking and I was training caregivers and housemothers in how to help survivors heal. The path I started on was one of selfishness and ego, but the path I am on now is leading me towards compassion and empathy. Kyle decided to invest in a 20-something year-old girl with tons of trauma. He decided that I was worth it and that my life and my future mattered. He chose to journey with me and fight for me - when I didn’t even have the energy to fight for myself. He helped me to rediscover my worth. And now, I have the honor of pursuing a counseling license so that I can help survivors of trafficking rediscover their worth too. My desire is that Kyle’s impact won’t end with me. I want to take the love, acceptance, and hope that he poured into my life and share it with the world. I am so grateful that Kyle believed in me and my aspirations for graduate school. If it wasn’t for him, who knows... I may still be picking at grass on the soccer fields in Africa.
    Brady Cobin Law Group "Expect the Unexpected" Scholarship
    There is a quote by Shannon Adler that states, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” This quote represents a beautiful idea about the meaning behind "leaving a legacy." While the definition of legacy can include a transfer of funds, assets, or gifts to a person or persons, I believe that legacy has less to do with "things" and more to do with "people." Legacies last most powerfully through stories and they are felt most powerfully through experiences. In my opinion, to leave a legacy is to make a meaningful and lasting impact. This impact can be transmitted to a person, a community, or the world. I want to leave behind a legacy that leads to positive and lasting change. I want to be known for how well I loved and for how I provided for the needs of the marginalized in ways that no one else has before. For example, one specific legacy that I'd like to leave behind is the development of international "freedom homes." I want to build freedom homes (which are safehouses for sex trafficking survivors) all over the world. In addition to that, I not only want to build those homes, but I also want to raise up the next generation of leaders, counselors, and caregivers to fully staff them. I want to inspire and educate others to join the fight to end human trafficking and sexual abuse. I want to train more counselors to take my place and encourage volunteers to take that scary step. I want to equip police departments, universities, churches, families, and schools with the tools they need to prevent these atrocities from ever happening in the first place (because prevention is always better than a cure). When people think of me, I want them to say, "She gave her all to fight for those who couldn't fight for themselves, she loved well, and she made a difference." When I am gone, I want my work to continue. I want the fire to still burn for justice and human rights. I want survivors to continue to find freedom and hope and safety, and I want to see those survivors grow into strong and brave "survivor leaders" - able to give back and help others on the journey to healing. I don't want to leave a legacy that fades away. I want to leave a legacy that is bigger than myself, a legacy that represents a movement, a passion, and a hope for the future. I want my legacy to be one that others want to share in and take pride in as time passes. I want my legacy to make a meaningful and lasting impact.
    AMPLIFY Mental Health Scholarship
    If you were to watch a film about my 29 years of life, you might wonder, "How is she alive today?" With the help of trusted close friends, mentors, and counselors, I have overcome a variety of mental health issues: PTSD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, addiction, and dissociation. I've struggled with some of these disorders for my entire life, and yet, they haven't stopped me from becoming the best version of myself. My mental health issues no longer define me. In fact, instead of weighing me down with shame and condemnation, my mental health issues have become badges of honor that remind me of my strength and capability. This may come as a surprise, but I am currently pursuing my master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Yes, me - the girl who has her own counselor and who still struggles with mental health issues. I want people to know that you can do great things and make an impact without needing to be completely healed and without needing to measure up to a cookie-cutter standard of perfection. Our unique experiences, struggles, and insights are strengths that set us apart. My main goal is to become a trauma-focused professional counselor who specializes in working with female survivors of sex trafficking, victims of sexual abuse, and clients who struggle with addiction. In other words, I want to give my clients hope that, "If I can do it, you can do it too." I want them to know that freedom is possible. I want them to understand that they are worthy and accepted and cared for by me as they bravely work to achieve healing. One of my special career dreams is to create and establish "freedom homes" aka. safehomes for trafficking survivors all over the world. Unfortunately in many countries, including the USA, there aren't enough safehomes to meet the demand. Girls are being sent to juvenile detention centers instead of recovery placements and they aren't getting the help they need. Part of this problem is the lack of workers and caregivers willing to assist this population. As a future counselor, I hope to teach and raise caregivers how to work with sex trafficking survivors so they won't experience compassion fatigue and burnout. I want to provide workshops and training opportunities around the world for volunteers, counselors, and house mothers where they can practice skills, heal from their own traumas, and develop into effective caregivers. My personal experiences with mental health issues and trauma have taught me that humans are stronger together. We heal together, grow together, learn together, and overcome together. Mental health battles should not be faced alone or fought in isolation. We need each other to move forward, and we need individuals who are brave enough to lead the way. I hope to be one of those individuals.
    A Sani Life Scholarship
    There's a quote by Marcel Proust that says, "We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full.” For me, 2020 healed me more than it destroyed me, and I will look back with gratefulness as I move forward into 2021. Last year, I was challenged and tested in a variety of ways that pushed me far outside of my comfort zone. The facts that I held to be true for so long were being questioned in the midst of fake media information, new scientific discoveries, politics, and conspiracy theories. Some of my friends were dying suddenly from a virus that I knew nothing about, while many other friends of mine denied the virus even existed. Protests and riots for social justice, basic human rights, and equality were occurring in my neighborhood and around the entire country. It was time for me to choose. I had to choose. Who would I become? What would I represent? Where do I stand on these issues? For the first time in my life, I felt brave. I felt like my voice mattered. While my voice caused tension and disagreement between me and so many others (including my own family members), I took a stand without regret. I remember one night in particular when the Capitol building was raided, and I finally had the courage to talk to my parents about their white privilege, their constant use of microaggressions, and their racist tendencies. Needless to say, it was a tough conversation - but it was also a productive conversation. After that night, my parents made changes in the way they speak and act that have greatly impacted their circle of friends and co-workers. Progress. Healing. In 2020, I also had the opportunity to help a female survivor of sex trafficking. (To protect her identity, we will call her Sarah). I've worked with trafficking survivors for the past 5 years, and I've learned to accept that many survivors run away from recovery. So, I have learned to love them well for as long as I can while they cycle through their healing process. A year ago I worked at a safehouse where Sarah stayed. She ended up leaving for several reasons, and I left soon after to pursue my graduate degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I hadn't heard from her since. Out of nowhere, she contacts me and asks for help. She was two weeks sober and needed a place to stay and I was the person she felt safe enough to reach out to for assistance. So, I did all I could and I helped by providing her with a place to sleep, food, and lots of hugs. About a week later, she disappeared without a trace. This situation taught me two things. First, my goodness and generosity should be given freely, and it should not dependant on the goodness or generosity of others. If I give and love, it's out of the goodness of my own heart, not for accolades. Second, everyone is struggling. We all have our own demons to fight and battles to win. We are all in this together, and no one has it easy. By keeping this in perspective, I can maintain an attitude of grace, compassion, understanding, and perseverance. By recognizing that no one has it all figured out, I can be free to love imperfect people (including myself) well. The lessons that I learned from 2020 have helped me on my path to becoming a licensed professional counselor. I am pursuing my degree and my license in the midst of political turmoil, a global pandemic, social injustice, human trafficking, and a world in suffering. What a gift. I honestly couldn't ask for a better place to learn how to become a qualified, competent, and effective trauma counselor. I strongly believe that facing my own fears, traumas, and biases during 2020 has equipped me to support and assist others while they face theirs. 2020 has taught me that we are constantly growing through what we go through, and this is just the beginning.
    Charles R. Ullman & Associates Educational Support Scholarship
    There is a Zulu phrase that says, "Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu," which can be translated to, "a person is a person through other people." The word ubuntu is often used on its own to describe the importance of community and how community can powerfully influence an individual person. I learned about ubuntu while I was living in South Africa, helping survivors of human trafficking find healing and freedom from their old lives. I come from a typical, middle-class American family, so the concepts of individuality and autonomy were always held in high esteem. It wasn't until I moved to South Africa that I learned about the true importance of community. Community is where a person should be able to find a safe space to thrive, to find help, and to be themselves. Community is where you belong, where you grow, where you are free to make mistakes, and where you learn hard lessons. Without a healthy community, it's easy to become isolated and impoverished. I believe that we are stronger together. The sex trafficking survivors I work with teach me everyday that it's okay to depend on others for help. They remind me that I can't do it all alone, and that sometimes we need someone to reach out a hand. But to receive that help and to be a part of something greater than ourselves, we need to learn how to get involved. How have you helped your own community in your life so far? My community includes my family, my friends, my city, and my survivor sisters. Through my education as a counselor-in-training, I have been able to help each sector of my community in different ways. I get to help my family heal from dysfunction and generational trauma. I get to help my friends learn how to advocate for themselves and others as they pursue truth and social justice. I get to help my city learn about the importance of mental health care, safehouse facilities, sexual abuse awareness, and human trafficking prevention initiatives. I get to help my co-workers strive to become the best versions of themselves while holding them accountable to a higher standard of success. But most importantly, I have helped my community by setting an example. As a 29-year-old female who has traveled around the world working with women in prostitution and survivors of sex trafficking, I have helped my community see that anyone can make a difference. I have partnered with donors, spoken at universities, and teamed up with police forces - and we have made a difference. I've shown my community that change is possible when we come together. Regarding my future career, I plan on helping my community by finishing my master's degree so that I can become a Licensed Professional Counselor. I plan on specializing in severe trauma so that I can help others in my area heal and grow. I also plan on offering pro bono counseling to survivors of sex trafficking, so they can get the help they need for free. But it doesn't stop there. I also hope to continue to travel to countries around the world so that I can train up the local caregivers in how to work with traumatized people groups. I want them to learn how to lead well and care for others effectively. I also want to help to establish more safehouses all over the world for survivors who don't have a refuge to recover - and I want to call them "freedom homes." My ultimate goal is to multiply myself and pass on the baton by teaching and equipping others to do the work in their own countries. As I help to raise up the next generation of counselors, caregivers, and house mothers - more lights will shine in the darkness, and the darkness will not be able to overcome it.
    Mental Health Movement Scholarship
    I am a sexual abuse overcomer, ex-porn addict, and rape survivor who works with sex trafficking survivors in the USA and around the world. If you were to take a look at my trauma counselor's notes from these past few years, you'd find words like "high anxiety, C-PTSD, depression, and panic attacks." But, you'd also find words like "brave, strong, courageous, independent, and healing." My journey with mental illness has been a fierce one, but it's been a journey that has shaped my entire being for the better. Five years ago, I lived in South Africa. I went with the goal of coaching soccer, but I ended up volunteering with an anti-human trafficking organization instead. My weekends involved walking down the streets of Cape Town on Fridays at 2am to help provide resources and love to the women caught in the prostitution industry. My mornings involved teaching about sexual abuse prevention and human trafficking awareness in high schools, police departments, and universities. Everyday, I was face-to-face with my darkest demons while I simultaneously tried to help others fight against their own. I had a unique opportunity to use my own weaknesses to help others discover their strengths. I realized that my weaknesses were really superpowers. When I chose to acknowledge my own pain, get the medication I needed, and learn how to take baby steps forward each day - I found freedom and strength that I never knew existed. In fact, my weaknesses and struggles have given me extra amounts of grace for people who are fighting similar battles. My mental health issues have given me insight, understanding, and compassion as a counselor-in-training, sister, daughter, and friend that I wouldn't have had otherwise. My perspective regarding my mental illnesses has shifted from hopeless to hopeful, from desperate to daring, from ashamed to awesome. Through my work as a future counselor, I aspire to equip and empower the traumatized, the broken, the marginalized, and the hurting so that they can find the freedom and healing they truly deserve.
    Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship
    I am a sexual abuse victim, ex-porn addict, and rape survivor who works with sex trafficking survivors, adult entertainers, and women in prostitution in the United States and around the world. Who would have thought that a girl like me would be able to do work like this? If you were to take a look at my trauma counselor's notes from these past few years, you'd find words like "high anxiety, C-PTSD, depression, hypervigilant, fearful, and sexually traumatized." But let me tell you something else. You'd also find words like "brave, strong and courageous, independent, healing rapidly, growing, and making huge progress." My journey with mental and emotional health has been a fierce one, but it's been a journey that has shaped my entire being for the better. Five years ago, I lived in South Africa. I went with the goal of playing and coach soccer with young girls in the local townships, but I ended up volunteering full-time with an anti-human trafficking organization instead. My weekends involved walking down the streets of Cape Town at 2am to build relationships with and offer help to the women caught in the prostitution industry. My mornings looked like speaking and teaching about sexual abuse prevention and human trafficking awareness in high schools, police departments, universities, and local community centers. My days were consumed with heartbreaking stories and traumatic conversation topics. I was face-to-face with some of my own darkest demons while simultaneously trying to helps others fight back against their own. I had a unique opportunity to use my own weaknesses to help others discover their strengths. And over time, I realized that my weaknesses could be transformed into superpowers through years of counseling and healing relationships. When I chose to acknowledge my own pain, get the medication I needed, and learn how to take baby steps forward each and every day - I found freedom and strength that I never knew existed. Do I still get startled at loud noises? Do I still struggle with negative thoughts? Do I still have bad days and nightmares? Yes, to all of those things, but they don't hold me back like they used to in the past. In fact, those "weaknesses" and struggles have given me extra amounts of grace for people who are fighting the same fight. My mental health issues have given me insight, authority, understanding, and compassion as a counselor-in-training, sister, daughter, and friend that I wouldn't have had otherwise. My perspective regarding my mental illnesses has shifted from hopeless to hopeful, from desperate to daring, from ashamed to awesome. Through my work as a future counselor, I aspire to equip and empower the traumatized, the broken, the marginalized, and the hurting so that they can find the freedom and healing they deserve. I want to get my hands, feet, and heart dirty by entering into the taboo and shame-filled places that most people fear to go. I want every single human that I lock eyes with to know they are worthy of love and investment. I want them to know that their mental illness doesn't define their value in this world - even if the world may not completely agree. My experience with mental health is ongoing, and each day I learn more about who I am and how to love myself and others better. The journey has just begun, and there is much work to do!