Samih Taylor '17 is headed to the top veterinary school in the country--going from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania to Ivy League's University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
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Samih Taylor graduated magna cum laude in May 2017 from Cheyney University with not one, but two degrees, a BS in Ecology and a BS in Biology. The highly driven, 22-year-old is headed to the top Veterinary School in the country, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, also known as Penn Vet, a global leader in veterinary medicine education. That has been a dream of hers for a long time.
"I cried when I got into Penn Vet,” she admits. “They said that I wouldn't hear for two weeks but they called me two days later. I thought, ‘wow, this is really happening to me.’ I didn't think that I was good enough to get into UPenn. I'm the first person in my family to graduate from high school, go to college and to go to grad school. That's phenomenal."
Phenomenal is the perfect word to describe Taylor.
The Keystone Honors Academy (KHA) Scholar has beaten all kinds of odds to achieve almost every dream that she’s ever had. Her list of accomplishments since coming to Cheyney is incredibly lengthy. The recipient of this year’s Provost Award for leadership, Taylor participated in the Duke Global Education Semester on Ecology and Conservation at the National Reservation in South Africa last fall, one of three fully paid study abroad experiences during her undergraduate days. The highly competitive program that only a few students in the country get to participate in, allowed her to study ecto and haemo-parasite abundance and prevalence in endemic avian speciesin the Kruger National Park. She also worked with SANPark Rangers in the Cape to contribute to ongoing microchip monitoring and data collection for the highly endangered Xenopus gilli, a South African frog.
“Samih is an exceptional person, who never ceases to impress me,” shares Dr. Tara Kent, Associate Provost. “Not only is she highly capable intellectually, but she possesses unwavering dedication to learning, personal growth, and professional development. She seizes every opportunity before her, and where none exists she has the vision and drive to create new possibilities. Her dossier reflects this, having participated in several international research programs, experiences in applied ecology and conservation, internships with several laboratories and agencies, and the many scholarships, honors and awards that she's earned.”
In fact, Taylor had five fully paid internships while an undergrad, including a Summer research experience under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration where she researched the explicit effects of industrial and agricultural development on fish in the Chesapeake Bay. She also interned for the US Department of Natural Resources, testing Pelicans for Avian Influenza and West Nile Virus, which led to her internship with NASA, doing animal research.
Taylor also received a full scholarship to study under prominent scientists in Spain and Portugal, learning about the human impact on the environment, and natural systems. She even went back to Spain to present her research at an international conference, and participated in research internships at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Program and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole Massachusetts.
Dr. Steven Hughes, Professor of Biology and Director of Cheyney’s Aquaculture Research and Education Laboratory, helped Taylor obtain numerous professional opportunities. He’s gladly written more recommendations for her than he can count.
“Samih is a very driven person. She took advantage of every challenge and opportunity that I and others gave her to expand her experience and to make her a more complete scientist than she might have been otherwise. I can’t be more proud of the woman that she has become. She has grown tremendously as a scientist over the past four years and she is showing the maturity of thought that makes me sure that she will be a successful veterinarian no matter where her career path takes her.”
In order to become that successful veterinarian, Taylor will have to shell out $80,000 a year for four years, a tough feat for someone who has been virtually homeless since high school.
“I left home when I was 17,” she quietly shares. “I ran away because we were living in very poor and inappropriate conditions that were taking a toll on my happiness and my health. I needed to go.”
Taylor never went back. Her new home became Cheyney, where her grades landed her a full KHA scholarship, including room, board, tuition, books, a laptop, and more. When school was in session, she felt secure, but school doesn’t run 365 days a year.
"I hated winter break, summer break, spring break, Thanksgiving break, every break,” she says. When most kids are anxious to get home, Taylor was just the opposite.
During breaks, since she couldn’t stay in the dormitory, she bounced from friend's home to friend's home, and even roamed the streets when she had nowhere to go. Coming from a military family, she was used to moving a lot, but the streets are dangerous, something Taylor knows all too well and doesn’t like to discuss, having been robbed twice and having dodged several sexual assault attempts.
“Not too many people come out of adversity the way that Samih has,” contends Taria Gale, KHA Administrative Assistant, who gave Taylor food, advice, hugs, and encouraging support over the years. “Samih has made many great decisions and she made sure that she surrounded herself with the right people who supported her along her journey.”
"If I didn't get into KHA, I wouldn't be where I am, I couldn’t afford college any other way,” Taylor concedes. "I had teachers who were whipping me into shape. Dr. Hughes, Ms. Gale and Dr. Kent didn't just teach me to be a student, they taught me to be a young woman, to be a professional and to be a young scientist. If you want to do good there's someone here at Cheyney who will help you be great.”
While Taylor had a full ride for her undergraduate degrees, she had to advocate for herself and find funding for her internships and study abroad experiences. She’s working two jobs now and, while the prospect of finding $320,000 for vet school is scary, she's determined to achieve her dream.
“I want a better life, a home, nice clothes, central air,” she laughs, “and I want to be safe. I don't want to struggle like this anymore. My kids will never be homeless. I want to be a good example of an educated black person; someone who came from nothing and made something with her life.”
“Though I’m concerned about the cost of veterinary school for Samih,” Dr. Hughes shares, “I’m sure that when Penn and others see the wonderful potential in this young lady, that she will find the help in generating funds to complete her degree.”
“Samih was not granted great privileges in life, but she has relied on her own ingenuity and talents to achieve her many accomplishments,” Dr. Kent maintains. “Regardless of the challenges that she has encountered, she remains steadfast in her dedication.”
Taylor is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to attain her dream of becoming an international veterinarian who travels around the world to provide healthcare to large felines such as lions and tigers. She also wants to take care of the environment and Mother Earth, in order to make the world a better place—where she, herself, has a comfortable, safe place to call home.
"I hope that my future family, animal and human alike, will share in my happy home one day."