Former foster child living her American Dream
Samira Todd honored by HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services
A college student who was once homeless is excelling in school and is on her way to becoming a psychologist so that she can help kids in the position she once found herself in.
Samira Todd shared her inspiring life story when she received the American Dream Scholar Award at a benefit dinner for the HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services (HSVS) program earlier this month.
The HSVS Annual Benefit, which took place at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, was attended by 500 people and raised more than $400,000, according to HeartShare Human Services of New York, the organization that oversees HSVS.
Todd was named Youth of the Year at the dinner. The award has been given out at the fundraising event for 60 years.
Todd, who was raised by a struggling single mother, became homeless and was forced to live in a shelter when her family lost their home, according to HeartShare officials.
She then lived in a series of foster homes and suffered abuse at the hands of her foster parents in one of the homes she lived in, HeartShare officials said.
But Todd refused to give up and worked toward making a better life for herself.
Todd is currently a sophomore student at the State University of New York at Oswego, where she studies under the school’s Educational Opportunity Program. At the dinner, she said she hopes that her educational and personal experience will allow her to work as a psychologist who serves teens going through “rough patches” in their young lives.
Todd was introduced at the dinner by Mamadou Dione, a former American Dream Scholar, who grew up in foster care, earned his B.A. from NYU Tandon and is currently employed as a civil engineer at Turner Construction. “If I could go around this room and hug each and every one of you, I would,” he told the audience.
Another graduate of the American Dream program, Alonzo Randall, is a freshman at Monroe College. He said he hopes to become a police detective.
The evening also included star power.
Celebrity ambassador Penn Badgley of “Gossip Girl” fame received the Rising Star Award for his volunteer work at after-school programs in Boerum Hill sponsored by HSVS.
“Even if Penn is on set for 12 hours shooting his new film, he visits our program every Wednesday evening. That is the consistency that children and youth need from a supportive adult. We are grateful for his service,” said HSVS Vice President Brooke Rosenthal.
HSVS Executive Director Dawn Saffayeh urged people to help young people in the program.
“Whether you can make a donation, become a mentor or contribute to a toy drive – it’s all making a difference. What seems like a small act of kindness can make a world of a difference to someone else,” Saffayeh said in a statement.
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