A Reagan High School incoming junior lauded for her charitable work with the less fortunate is being hailed as a student hero by the State Board of Education.
Samantha Sanchez is one of 15 pupils across Texas to receive a 2018 Student Hero accolade.
“I was extremely surprised and pleased when I found out that I was receiving the award,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez, 16, is the founder of Sam’s Covers, a nonprofit providing blankets, pajamas and socks to at-risk children. So far in 2018, she and her helpers have made and distributed nearly 1,600 fleece blankets.
The nonprofit gives its coverings to local organizations such as Roy Maas Youth Alternatives, The Bridge (an emergency shelter), Haven for Hope and SAMMinistries.
Sanchez started Sam’s Covers at 12. The practice carried over from when she knitted blankets for charity with her friends for fun.
“Once I knew that I wanted to continue, my parents told me that I had to figure out a way to get money,” Sanchez said. “I made Sam’s Covers. That way people could write off their donations on their taxes and we had something more legitimate, as well as a concept that people could grasp.”
District 5 State Board of Education representative Ken Mercer presented the Student Hero Award to Sanchez during a ceremony at Reagan May 21.
“Thank you, Samantha, for your commitment to excellence,” Reagan Principal Brenda Shelton said in a North East Independent School District statement.
According to the Texas Education Agency, the coveted honor recognizes “public school students in prekindergarten through high school who do outstanding works of service to benefit their fellow students, schools and their communities.”
According to the state board, the unselfish acts of kindness and compassion are works and service performed by the student nominee, which must be voluntary and not a curriculum requirement, school project or community program.
Candidates must also be enrolled in a Texas public school or charter school. Sanchez was selected from nominees representing 13 counties.
“The Student Hero Award given by the State Board of Education provides an opportunity for Texans to spotlight and recognize these caring students,” Donna Bahorich, chairwoman of the education board, said in a prepared release. “These young people make their schools and communities a better place because of their unselfish work.”
Sanchez said one of the best aspects about Sam’s Covers is connecting with those she aids.
“Meeting the people who receive the blankets is actually my favorite part of what I do,” Sanchez said.
“Hearing their stories is always a humbling and eye-opening experience.”
For more or to donate, visit www.samscovers.com.