Samantha Witterstauter: 2020 High School Scholarship Recipient

Samantha Witterstauter

Inna Shames

Life can take strange turns. Samantha Witterstauter received a High School Scholarship from The Women of Quail Creek (TWOQC) in 2020, but if not for COVID, it might never have happened.

She graduated from Walden Grove High School in 2020 and had an opportunity to travel to Slovakia, so she decided on a gap year to see the world. But the world shut down, and the trip was canceled. So, she contacted her high school advisor, inquired about scholarships, and learned about TWOQC. She was awarded a TWOQC scholarship to Pima Community College and started online in 2020 with no clear goal in mind. A daughter of border patrol agents, law enforcement and cyber security seemed a career possibility for her until she learned how little human contact it involved. “I love humans, and I love talking!”

Unsure of her goals, Samantha opted for a liberal arts degree. She studied online and worked at various jobs, including as a teacher’s aide at Great Expectations Academy where she discovered a love for working with kids, and a direct care worker at United Cerebral Palsy in Green Valley, helping clients with rehabilitation and respite care, where she discovered a love for working with people—regardless of age. She graduated from Pima College in 2023 with an associate degree in liberal arts.

Medicine had been of interest for Samantha. At 16, diagnosed with desmoid fibromatosis, a rare aggressive leg tumor, she underwent numerous scans, medications, doctor visits, surgeries, and chemotherapies. It made her want to help others with medical care, although nothing specific stood out. Then she discovered occupational therapy, which seemed a perfect fit! Options in Tucson were limited, so Samantha opted for Gateway Community College in Phoenix, which had a two-year waitlist.

She waited, got in, and is currently studying for an associate degree in occupational therapy at Gateway and living with family in Gilbert while dog sitting and babysitting on the side. There remains field work to be completed, board exams for COTA (Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant) to take, then surgery for a torn ACL and meniscus, long postponed to complete schooling. Only then can she explore employment options. One thing is certain, though: “I can’t lie. I am very done with school, stress, and tests. I am very eager to start working.”

COVID was part of Samantha’s education: “… I feel like a whole new person from it. It taught me to be flexible and patient with life. It turned my original plans and dreams into something I would have never thought of. I learned how to get a degree online and lots of new work strategies ….”

Her best advice: “Life comes at us in waves. I have lost myself many times, but keep people around that love you, stay true to your heart … be open to exploring different possibilities. Your intended path may change, but always know it’s for the better!”