SAN ANTONIO – College can be tough for a student, especially when you work full time, lose a loved one and have to learn during a pandemic.
However, it was through those obstacles that Xavierana “Sam” Parisi, a graduate from Our Lady of the Lake University, found the strength to pursue her dream.
“It was really hard this past year, but everything I’ve done is for her,” Parisi said. “I’m really happy for that, because I feel like she is watching down on me and cheering every step of the way.”
At just 22-years-old, Sam is a first generation college graduate with a bachelor’s in communication sciences and disorders.
She’s excelled both in and outside of school, but it wasn’t always easy for her.
Right before the coronavirus pandemic hit in February 2020, Sam lost her number one supporter, her mom.
“She was an amazing supporter of me... my number one go-to cheerleader. She really wanted me to graduate and do more,” she said.
So, that’s exactly what she did.
Sam worked tirelessly to make her mom proud by taking on a full load of classes for speech pathology, while also working full-time and completing 200 hours of research in between.
She says her interest for speech pathology first sparked at age 10 when a specialist made home visits to work with her two younger sisters.
Sam said seeing he siblings make progress first hand was an amazing experience and it’s what inspired her to do the same for others.
Dr. Patti Solomon-Rice, Sam’s teacher and mentor at OLLU, said Sam is a perfect role model for their program.
“She’s just the the epiphany of what we do want to see in a speech language pathologist.”
She goes on to say Sam is the kind of student who wants to be the best and that it was easy mentoring her.
“Sometimes you have to pull and pull and pull to help your students reach as much potential as possible. But Sam did not need to be pulled at all,” Dr. Solomon-Rice said.
As for what comes next, Sam says she’s looking forward to starting a prestigious master’s program this summer.
“I couldn’t be happier. I’m overjoyed because it’s my next big chapter.”