The American Legion played a prominent role in Samantha Goerger’s life in 2014. It was the year she represented the Department of North Dakota in the Legion’s National Oratorical Contest in Indianapolis; attended Auxiliary Girls State; and won a $20,000 Samsung American Legion Scholarship. The 20-year-old from Wyndmere, N.D., credits her participation in the Legion programs and scholarships earned for being able to attend Princeton University.
“(The Samsung scholarship) has allowed me to focus my studies toward law … something previously unreachable. And the Oratorical Contest has given me a background in law and politics that facilitates my decisions and my studies,” Goerger said. “Truth is, my experience (at Princeton) would be completely different if it wasn’t for The American Legion.”
Goerger’s knowledge of The American Legion’s program and scholarship opportunities began in 2011 when her sister, Marie, won the Samsung American Legion Scholarship. That following year, Goerger participated in the Oratorical Contest as a freshman in high school and made an appearance at the national level in 2014 as well as 2015.
“The Oratorical Contest gave me historical background (on the U.S. Constitution) and speaking skills that I never would have gotten anywhere else. This is very important at Princeton as the environment calls for experts in their fields,” Goerger said. “I would hardly call myself an expert (on the Constitution), but it allows me to engage in the conversation with the confidence that I built from the (Oratorical) contest.”
While both Goerger and her sister attended Girls State, a requirement of the Samsung scholarship, their grandfather’s military service also made them eligible to apply.
“Throughout my life he has inspired me to form an appreciation for all veterans and has caused me to be active in The American Legion community,” said Goerger of her grandfather, Stanley Whicker, a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Korean War and a member of American Legion Post 6 in Grand Forks, N.D. “My experiences with veterans has taught me the abstract history that cannot possibly be taught in a school setting.”
When Whicker learned of Goerger receiving the Samsung scholarship, she said he “chuckled and said, ‘Well, I guess my time out there was worth it.’ From then on he began taking more interest in American Legion activities in his area.”
Thousands of American Legion Boys State and Auxiliary Girls State attendees apply to the Samsung American Legion Scholarship every year, and one area on the application that helps applicants stand out is community service. While growing up in rural Wyndmere – a population of less than 450 — Goerger became a certified emergency medical responder and volunteered with the ambulance service; revitalized and helped reopen the town’s teen center; and organized a yearly 5k run that raises funds for the Richland-Wilkin Kinship organization, a mentorship program for youth ages 5 to 16.
“It is important to find what you are passionate about, do it, and find a way to convey that passion in your (scholarship) essays,” Goerger said. “Helping others is a true passion of mine.”
As a Samsung scholarship recipient, Goerger received an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., along with the other 2014 scholarship recipients, and she is a member of the Samsung American Legion Alumni Association.
“I really enjoyed the Washington, D.C., trip and think back on it often,” she said. “We received tours of the war memorials and monuments … seeing the memorials through the eyes of servicemembers was very formative and I won’t forget it.”
There have been 1,971 recipients of the Samsung American Legion Scholarships since its inception in 1996. The Samsung American Legion Scholarship is available for high school juniors who participate in the current session of Boys State or Girls State and are direct descendants (or legally adopted children) of wartime veterans eligible for American Legion membership. The Samsung scholarship awards up to $10,000 for undergraduate studies (e.g., room and board, tuition and books), and each applicant is selected according to his or her involvement in school and community activities, academic record and financial need. Apply online here.