Samantha Von Wieding, Public Health

Samantha Von Wieding
Samantha Von WiedingSchool of Health Sciences

When senior Samantha Von Wieding isn’t helping others through public health advocacy and education, you can find the Public Health major with a focus in Community Health from Seaford, New York, curled up on the couch with some tea and a good documentary on the 1918 flu.

For Von Wieding, representation is everything when it comes to public health.

She is set to attend her dream school, the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, after a year of service with the AmeriCorps Rural Alliance for Dignity (RAD) program at the Mt. Carmel Wellness Center in Trinidad, Colorado. There, she will educate the community on aspects of health and wellness like healthy eating on a budget, diabetes outreach and physical fitness programs.

“I wanted to go where marginalized communities need a public health advocate the most,” Von Wieding explained about her decision to defer graduate school for a year. “I questioned, ‘How am I supposed to do my job as a public health professional if I do not really understand what it is like to live in a community that the field of public health was designed for?’”

Her favorite part of Stockton and what she will miss most? Being a Wellness Center Peer Educator, of course. “I would love to thank Kristen Welsh-Capaldi for being such an awesome boss and teaching me so much about what it means to be a health educator,” she added.

While at Stockton, Von Wieding also interned at Atlantic Prevention Resources, a nonprofit that provides prevention information and helps individuals with substance abuse and misuse receive recovery support and treatment. She will also graduate with a minor in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Notably, as an intern in the Sara & Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center, she interviewed the son of a Holocaust survivor.

As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, just one of many communities that are often disenfranchised by health care, I want to be a voice. I want to help and advocate on behalf of people, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression or socioeconomic status.

Von Wieding says she couldn’t have achieved any of her success without the support and encouragement of her mother. After losing her father to ALS when she was 13 years old, whenever Von Wieding wanted to give up, her mother was there for her. “She always inspired me and never let me forget that even when times are bad, there is always good to be found.”

Last semester, when Von Wieding lost her grandmother to COVID-19, she thought she might not finish her degree. “There were times when I felt like finishing school was too much, but then I remembered that she wouldn’t want me to give up. She was so proud of me. While I am finishing my degree for myself, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say I am doing it for my grandmother as well.”

Von Wieding hopes to serve as a role model and inspire the younger LGBTQIA+ community to always push forward, even in the face of adversity. “My theory is, the more we educate ourselves and those around us about the many cultures out there, the less room there is for ignorance and hate. That is something I will use as my foundation in my public health career.”