2013 Salina Samaniego

The word “energy” springs to mind when you meet Salina Samaniego. She is determined and confident she will reach her goals, no matter how tough life gets.

Growing up in Texas, Salina had to deal with an abusive and mentally-ill father. He struggled with substance abuse, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, but didn’t want to take the medications that could help him keep things under control. His abuse escalated to the point where child protection authorities began investigating and the family chose to leave the state. Salina and her family relocated to Minnesota, but things didn’t get better here. The instability continued and the family shuffled between relatives, shelters and foster homes.

Her grandmother Gloria, who is still in Texas, was and is her pillar of support. When all else around her was falling apart, Gloria reminded Salina that she was special, she could always do better, and she should try to make a difference. Those are words Salina comes back to again and again.

Salina kept her focus, did well in school and now wants to become a nurse, and ultimately a family physician. After graduation, she plans to return home to Texas and be with her grandmother while attending Texas Tech University in the fall. She has two jobs now that are providing Salina a glimpse into health care careers and other opportunities – at Cerenity Senior Care and at Ramsey County Public Health.

Salina knows the outcome could have been different for her – she could have been running the streets, taking drugs and repeating the cycle of abuse – but she wants to change her family’s history. “I think that my future is going to be a bumpy, long road – it’s going to be hard to go where I need to go. But I know that I am resilient, strong and will never give up until I have the life that I’ve been fighting for.”