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University High senior wins scholarship

By: Jennie Miller | Southfield Sun | Published January 18, 2012

 Samantha Fentress, 17, a senior at University High School Academy in Southfield, is an avid member of Hope United Methodist Church and was recently honored as a scholarship recipient by Junior Optimist Octagon International.

Samantha Fentress, 17, a senior at University High School Academy in Southfield, is an avid member of Hope United Methodist Church and was recently honored as a scholarship recipient by Junior Optimist Octagon International.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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SOUTHFIELD — Samantha Fentress is smart. She’s ambitious. She works hard, and she gives back to the community. And she’s only 17.

The Southfield resident and senior at University High School Academy recently completed a yearlong term serving as governor for the entire Michigan district of the Junior Optimist Octagon International, overseeing 41 clubs.

And according to Cherryl Thames of Lathrup Village, Michigan’s district co-chair for JOOI, who served as Fentress’ mentor when she was governor, the district has grown stronger thanks to the leadership Fentress brought to the table.

“I have found Samantha to be a very organized young lady in both her thinking as well as her actions,” Thames said. “I’ve known Samantha since she graduated from the eighth grade. … Everybody loves her because she’s so friendly, she’s personable, she’s kind, she’s giving and she’s dependable.”

As a result of her hard work, Fentress was recently honored with the Optimist International Outstanding JOOI Governor Club Services Award and Scholarship for 2011.

“I was elated,” Fentress said of learning she’d won the award after applying for several scholarships and not hearing from any of them. “It was like a moment of promise, like, ‘I can do this,’ like a reassuring moment. It gave me confidence.”

The scholarship recognized Fentress’ efforts while serving as governor. Her passions within the local JOOI chapter include JOOI of Reading, which was designed to help members encourage and promote reading.

“I think reading of course is important for the youth, but it speaks to me personally because I’ve had issues with reading and comprehending,” Fentress said. “That’s one of my struggles, and I just wanted to help other kids.”

She also helped found the local effort of Super Bowl of Caring, a hunger relief movement, and the Childhood Cancer Campaign, which offers support and encouragement to children fighting disease.

“We wrap Beanie Babies with ‘magic love squares’ and attach a message (of inspiration) to it and it goes to child patients who are suffering from cancer,” Fentress said.

Aside from her work with JOOI, Fentress has got a lot on her plate right now. She has completed the college application process and is currently in the aggravating wait-and-see mode that comes along with it.

“I got accepted at Michigan (Technological University), Western (Michigan University) and Wayne State (University),” she said. “I’m still waiting to hear back from Vanderbilt, Columbia, Princeton (universities), and the Colorado School of Mines.”

Yes, mines. Fentress wants to major in geology.

“I’ve always been interested in geography, and as I got older, I developed that curiosity of why the land looks the way it is,” she explained of her passion for the science. “I get a thrill about hearing about a natural disaster — not the death, but the fact that the earth moves in such a dynamic way. It’s mind-blowing.”

She hopes to discover new theories and new technology to better predict earthquakes and volcanoes.

“Every summer, she goes up to Michigan Tech to improve her skills in the field she wants to pursue from a very proactive springboard, and not just depending on her K-eight education to take care of all that for her,” Thames said, clearly impressed by Fentress’ ambition.

Fentress is a member of the National Honor Society, and served on the University High School Academy Student Congress. She plays clarinet in the school’s Jazz Band, and is in the Chess Club. She is also an active member of Hope United Methodist Church, appearing in the choir as well as the step team, called Movement of Faith. And on top of all that, she works part-time at a coffee shop.
 

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