ODA rising senior hopes to bring a new perspective to the Manatee Literacy Council.
When Samantha Malcolm, a rising senior at Out-of-Door Academy, logged onto her first Manatee Literacy Council board meeting June 9, she was nervous.
She virtually met with a group of adults with experience with the Manatee Literacy Council while she was a 17-year-old high school student new to the board.
It didn’t take long for Malcolm to see the passion of the board members and for her to be excited about the potential opportunities she had as a board member to make a difference with an organization focused on increasing the level of functional literacy in adults in Manatee County.
Although she is a senior in high school, Malcolm, who lives in Lakewood Ranch, has the same voting powers as the rest of the board, an opportunity afforded to her after completing the 10-week Star Leadership Program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County.
“This is something you can take with you for life,” Malcolm said. “The experiences I’m going to gain now are going to probably help me throughout my life, especially in college.”
Malcolm wanted to participate in the Star Leadership Program because it teaches leadership skills, promotes lifelong civic engagement and develops youth and adult partnerships. She also saw it as an opportunity to give back to her community once she learned she would be serving on the board of a nonprofit.
She said the ability to be a voting member of a board of a nonprofit is what drew her to the program.
“It makes me not take the role lightly,” Malcolm said. “I want to do as much as I can with it. I want to make sure I get the most out of it and don’t shy away from anything because I have this unique opportunity.”
Patricia McMahon, a Manatee Literacy Council board member and the adult adviser for Malcolm, said the council asked to have a Star Leadership Program participant apply to be a member of the nonprofit’s board because the board wanted the perspective of a young person.
“We are working hard on diversity, equity, inclusion and access, and of course, age is one of those factors, which I think is where Samantha will make a huge contribution in terms of a perspective of a younger person with fresh ideas,” McMahon said.
As an adult adviser, McMahon has helped introduce Malcolm to the nonprofit and explained the bylaws of the board and how the nonprofit functions.
McMahon described Malcolm as attentive, caring, motivated, engaging and dedicated to helping others.
McMahon was impressed with Malcolm’s studies of multidimensional poverty, meaning the different disadvantages that contribute to a person being in poverty, such as limited access to health care and housing, lack of education and more. Malcolm did an independent project on multidimensional poverty as a junior.
“I’m interested in pursuing public policy in college, but there wasn’t one specific thing I grabbed onto,” Malcolm said. “The reason I was interested in multidimensional poverty was that it encompassed a lot of different aspects of life and showed how things are connected, just like policies are connected to how people live.”
After doing months of research on multidimensional poverty, Malcolm said being involved with the Manatee Literacy Council could provide her opportunities to see the real-life impacts a lack of literacy could make on an individual rather than basing her knowledge off what she found online.
“It’s not just going to be something I’ve read about and learned about; it’s going to be something I can see and I’m interacting with,” Malcolm said. “I’m going to be doing my part to try to help that.”
McMahon said by the time she finishes her term on the board next year, Malcolm will have a better understanding of the reality of Manatee County.
“She understands there’s a social dilemma out there, but through us, she will very much be in touch with that through the reality of our learners and their tutors and how they work together to be able to make a lot of dreams come true.”
As a board member, Malcolm will serve on one of the nonprofit’s four committees — education, fundraising, marketing and communication or governance — as well as volunteer for events and participate in other aspects of the Manatee Literacy Council.
“I can use my voice and not be afraid of trying to solve issues,” Malcolm said.
She’s leaning toward joining the education committee, which includes focusing on the curriculum, developing new programs and expanding current programs.
“I feel like that’s the one where you really get to see the products being put into use,” Malcolm said. “You get to see how it is impacting people. You get to help form the decisions of what will most help impact people.”
As a board member, Malcolm wants to promote awareness of the nonprofit, especially in Lakewood Ranch, as well as develop relationships with the board members, volunteers and learners in the nonprofit.
“I want to give back, and I want to make sure more learners have a successful path,” Malcolm said.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.