AMESBURY — Samantha McLaughlin is a single mother of four, a part-time home health care provider, a full-time nursing student, a five-time marathoner and as of last week, the new student representative on Northern Essex Community College’s board of trustees.
The Amesbury resident said she was looking for a way to get more involved and meet new people as she wrapped up her prerequisites this past year in preparation for entering the two-year nursing program this fall.
“I thought, what else can I do to get involved at this school?” McLaughlin said.
So when she heard about the one-year student trustee position, she jumped to apply and was soon elected by her fellow students from a pool of seven candidates.
“It’s a way to be a voice for students — all students because everybody has their own story,” McLaughlin said, adding that the college is diverse in age and backgrounds. Some students are taking college courses while still in high school, while others have returned after decades away from school.
McLaughlin, 39, started working in home health care when she was 17 and since then, her passion for helping people has only blossomed.
Along the way, she received a communications degree from Curry College in Milton, worked in studio management, got married and had four children, who are now between the ages of seven and 12. She even applied and was accepted to nursing school around the birth of her fourth child, but the timing wasn’t right for her financially.
“I put it on the back burner,” she said, saying she worked as a preschool teacher in the meantime. A few years later, while going through a divorce, McLaughlin decided it was “the perfect opportunity to begin again” and starting pursuing nursing programs.
“I fell in love with taking care of people,” she said, explaining how she has cared for a few individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and has wanted to do more beyond her abilities as a personal caretaker.
She enrolled at Northern Essex in 2018, soon fulfilling her nursing prerequisites and making dean’s list last semester.
“My focus is on school right now,” McLaughlin said, adding that she’s “excited” for her new position as student trustee.
Essentially, she will function as a bridge between the student government and the board of trustees, and do her best to provide the student perspective at meetings.
In her rare free time, McLaughlin said she likes running, doing arts and crafts, going to the beach and enjoying her favorite foods such as pizza and ice cream. She also has an identical twin, who works as a nurse. Her children are supportive of all she has accomplished, and McLaughlin tries to use that to encourage them to work just as hard. With all five of them attending school remotely these past few months, they were able to do school work side by side, which her children enjoyed.
“When I get a good grade, I make sure to tell them that I really worked hard for this and I show them that the hard work and studying is important,” she said.
The NECC board of trustees includes nine members who are appointed by the governor of the state to a maximum of two five-year terms as well as an alumni-elected member, who also serves a maximum of 10 years, and a student trustee who serves for two semesters.
McLaughlin, whose term began Wednesday, will serve for 2020-21.