Service in Harmony

Longtime Girl Scout Samantha Childers brings music to children at The Carying Place

Spend a bit of time with vocalist and pianist Samantha Childers of Cary, and you’ll discover the two words most important to her: music and opportunity.

“I’m learning that the opportunities you’re given impact the way your life plays out,” said Samantha, 19, a rising sophomore at Elon University and aspiring high school choir teacher.

“I’ve had my feet in so many pools — swimming, soccer, piano lessons, singing — and my parents have always been willing to support me, to let me test out what I might want to do.”

The daughter of Wayne and Susie Childers, sister to Leah, 16, and an Athens Drive High alumna, Samantha also credits strong relationships outside the family for her success: “I’ve had good, caring music teachers, and Girl Scout leaders who care about who you are, and go the extra mile.”

Growing up, Samantha climbed the ranks in Girl Scouts from Daisy at age 5 to Brownie, Junior, Cadette and Senior, finding meaning in volunteerism. She earned Scouting’s Bronze and Silver awards, and then faced a big decision — whether to go for the Gold.

“Not many people go for the Gold Award,” she said. “It’s like climbing a cliff. It’s a huge commitment. But I don’t quit things, and felt like I needed to try.”

The highest achievement in Girl Scouting, the Gold Award is earned through completion of a seven-step project addressing a community issue both now and for the future. Applicants investigate, create a project plan, gather feedback from Scouting advisors, then take action for the cause.   

Hailing from a musical family — her dad played snare for the Florida State University Marching Chiefs, and both of her grandmothers formally studied music — Samantha chose Spread the Music as her project.

Her goal was to bring music to underprivileged children via The Carying Place, a Cary nonprofit which provides homeless, working families with short-term housing and life skills training. All told, she spent a year in planning and materials development for a total of more than 100 project hours, exceeding Gold Award requirements.

“My goal was to expose children to music who might not have the opportunities I’ve had,” Samantha said. “Options and opportunity are what teaching is all about.”

Lindsay Bui, who was then on staff at The Carying Place, offered Samantha direction on how her project fit into the center’s programming for children.

“Samantha’s program involved learning and fun, and became something the kids looked forward to each week,” said Bui. “It was beneficial for them to look up to her as a young adult, and know that they could learn music basics and to play instruments too.”

Samantha developed a series of five workshops, including lesson plans and related activities for each. She introduced the children to music of numerous genres and cultures, helped them experience instruments first hand, taught breathing techniques for singing, and led them in crafting maracas and pan pipes.

She even taught music theory, including tapping out rhythms and experimenting with score dynamics.

“I wanted to show them that making music is complex, but you can express yourself through it,” Samantha said. “Most children enjoy doing something creative, from coloring to dancing. Helping them discover that in themselves through arts education is important. It benefits students to have classes in which they can sing, dance, draw, play an instrument; it’s good for their self-esteem and development.”

By supplying The Carying Place with videos of each workshop, her lesson plans, visuals and music clips, Spread the Music sessions can be replicated to continue inspiring children.

“It is certainly set up in a way that everything is there to do; if another volunteer wants to help, staff can literally pull the lesson book or videos from the shelf,” Bui said.

Samantha is now completing her second year as a leader and former program aide at the Girl Scout day camp she first attended as a Brownie. For the past five summers she’s worked as a theater camp counselor at the Cary Arts Center, this year as lead teaching assistant.

As Elon’s only current music education major who is also a Teaching Fellow, Samantha is working to grow musically, and plays synthesizer in the Elon Fire of the Carolinas marching band. She teaches in the university’s Music in the Village program, a community outreach for children and their parents that promotes musical literacy.

Samantha speaks Spanish, loves science and adores Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and enjoys travel. So far she’s been to Italy, London, Paris, Germany, Austria and Spain, and this coming spring will study in Costa Rica as part of the Teaching Fellows program.

“Being a music education major and a Teaching Fellow at Elon is what I’m most proud of, and what defines me,” she said. “The Gold Award was a stepping stone; it propelled me. I gained initiative and independence, and learned patience, by doing something that couldn’t be done in an hour or a day.  

“It was a lot of work, but it’s something people really respect. I gained new perspective and am really proud of it; I even got a Gold Award magnet for my car!”

To others striving to make a difference, Samantha offers this advice: “Keep your options open and keep your head up. Look forward; think a little bit into the future about what you want to do, and don’t limit yourself. You can be anything you want to be.”

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