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Family comes first for Samantha Fletcher.
Mothers Meghan and Mary McVey said they’ve always considered their job to be to help their daughter have limitless options. Naturally studious, mature beyond her years, she acts with a sense of purpose.
They knew she had amazing potential. They didn’t believe she’d reach it at Rogers High School.
Despite years of struggle that included time without a home, they paid for Catholic school, even though they felt they had to hide that they are in a same-sex relationship. Samantha was accepted to St. Ursula Academy and Maumee Valley Country Day, but the financial burden was going to be tough on a middle-class family. There were many sleepless nights.
Samantha, 17, made it easy on them. Save the money for the family. Send me to Rogers, she told them. That ended up looking like the right decision.
“The only thing that’s ever mattered to me is this family,” Samantha said.
She doesn’t plan to lose that family focus, but Samantha seems poised to matter to a lot more people than just her family. The rising senior at Rogers has already built up quite a resume.
She’s tops in her class and sports a 4.8 GPA. She was selected for the Chewonki Semester School in Maine where she took honors courses, worked on an organic farm, and roughed it through a Maine winter. She went with Rogers American history teacher Joe Boyle — a brilliant man, she said — to Normandy as part of an Albert H. Small Normandy Institute research project.
Now, Samantha will spend the summer in Washington working as a congressional page, one of only 30 high-school juniors chosen for the session. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) is her sponsor.
“Samantha is a remarkable person whose character and dedication are truly inspirational,” Senator Brown said. “It’s a testament to who she is, and how she was raised, that she can achieve so much, all with a genuine passion for helping others.”
Childhood wasn’t always easy, but that wasn’t from lack of love. Samantha said she rarely goes more than two hours without at least a text to Meg or Mary. Brothers Matthew, 16, and Nicholas, 12, love their sister.
It’s a bond born out of shared hardship. Adversity tears some families apart, but it has only made theirs stronger.
The family has lived in Toledo for about five years and live in the Reynolds Corners neighborhood. Mary is a nurse. Meghan is an EMS communications supervisor.
Mary is Samantha's biological mother. She divorced her husband when Samantha was young, and was left with few means to raise three kids, including one who has an autism-like disorder.
She’d worked as a waitress for years at a Dayton-area restaurant. The gig was serendipitous — it’s where she met Meg — but wasn’t enough to provide for a family of four.
With no home, and little pay, they were forced to live in hotels for a year. Mary paid for the rooms and baby-sitters off her tips. Meg, then her girlfriend, would pitch in when she could. There’d be little left over to try to build for more.
Mary had gone to school to be a nurse, but in the turmoil of that time, she’d failed her license test.
She knew she needed to do something to pull her family out of homelessness. So Mary swallowed her pride, went on welfare, and moved into government housing, bought nursing textbooks online, and retaught herself. The next time she took the test, she passed easily.
Many kids would be scarred by the turmoil. Samantha shrugs it off. She loves moving, she said.
“She’s never been one to complain,” Mary said.
Samantha, her parents said, has the same kind of drive they do to provide for those she loves. She said there’s nothing she wants more than to help her family.
Living with two moms isn’t always easy. In middle school, Samantha went to a Catholic school. Mary and Meghan hid their relationship from the school, for fear Samantha would be ostracized or even kicked out. Meghan was “Aunt Meg” at school events.
“It’s hiding something that we are,” Samantha said. “That’s very hard.”
Meg is very much her mom, Samantha said. Her parents married at Niagara Falls, N.Y., after that state passed a same-sex marriage law in 2011. They celebrated their one-year anniversary this spring.
That played into their decision to send Samantha to Rogers, where they say they don’t worry about their relationship. Staff at TPS have always been accepting, they said.
Watching her parents, who Samantha says are more in love than anyone else she knows, build a family that wasn’t always accepted has helped push her into politics.
Her family’s very existence is, in a way, political these days. Samantha said the rapid change in same-sex marriage laws has raised her awareness of other political issues.
The family is now vegan, and Samantha is an ardent environmentalist. She doesn’t necessarily plan to go into politics. She wants to go to Cornell University to major in biology. She’ll more likely be someone fighting for an environmental or civil-rights cause than a senator voting on a bill.
“The world is in trouble,” Samantha said. “Someone needs to do something.”
She wants to be that someone. Lots of people have struggled. Not all of them have had the love she’s had.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.