Interview by Sarah Shumick
Sinuon “Sam” Todd comes from an immigrant family who came to the U.S. with very little. Reflecting on her own childhood experience with school mentors, Sam has sent her intentions on paying it forward. She has taken on two kids, both girls, in her role as a KidCoach with Future Possibilities (typically, volunteers are paired with one child to mentor). Luckily for this mother of five, Sam knew how to best divide her time and says the experience has been “no less than amazing.” Sam, a Supplier Diversity Coordinator with AEP, has a master’s degree from Ohio Dominican, and lives in Gahanna with her family.
Give us a snapshot of your career path: I graduated from Ohio Dominican University with a Master of Business Administration and Management. I began my career in Human Resources but switched to Procurement after my internship with the State of Ohio. I didn’t even know what Procurement was until I was hired as State Purchasing Assistant. I love bargain shopping so the role was a natural fit! I enjoy the art of purchasing and negotiating for the best deals at the lowest cost possible. It’s with this passion for buying that I excelled in my role as a State Purchasing Analyst for DAS/Office of Procurement Services. That role lead me to partner and work with a lot of Small and Diverse Businesses for bid opportunities which lead to my next role as a Supplier Diversity Specialist at Battle and to my current role with American Electric Power (AEP) as Supplier Diversity Coordinator.
What led you to become involved with Future Possibilities? How long have you been involved & what does the organization mean to you? I was a mentor for Franklin Country Children Services (Malaika Program) for several years, but with work and a growing family I had to take a pause. It wasn’t until I joined AEP in December of 2017 that the opportunity to volunteer for Future Possibilities presented itself. I’m blessed to work for a company that support and offers their employees opportunities to give back to the community and Future Possibilities was right up my alley. I was super excited and joined immediately! I started with 8 other AEP employees in November of 2018 at Georgian Heights Elementary School. It’s an honor to be a part of this empowering mentoring program. It’s the highlight of my week to volunteer alongside my AEP colleagues and see the excitement in the kids’ faces when they work with their Kid Coach.
What do you want everyone to know about Future Possibilities? You can learn a lot about the organization by going to FuturePossibilities.org. For me personally, I love their vision statement “that every child be empowered to realize their future possibilities”. As a Kid Coach, you get to help your kid(s) see their endless possibilities and help them channel their creativity and vision into something realistic and achievable.
For someone who is a new Kid Coach, you don’t have to be some super creative genius to help a child. You have a Lead Coach by your side should you need support or backup. There’s also a detailed manual that lays outs everything step by step for you and your kid to stay on track.
Typically you’re paired up with one kid but in my case I ended up with two girls. It was challenging at first because I wanted my kid to have my undivided attention since we only have an hour or so to work together. I wasn’t sure how being paired up with two kids would work out but the mother in me knew how to split up my time with five kids of my own so I made it work! We learned to work through our obstacles and the experience I had with my girls was no less than amazing! I guess you can call it “Girl Power!”
What is the one thing you are most passionate about? My family were immigrants and we came to America with nothing. We had what we had through the generosity of strangers. Growing up, I struggled learning a second language. I loved learning and American culture fascinated me but in school I was left out because I was socially awkward, and the communication barrier made it a challenge to be included. I couldn’t imagine overcoming those struggles without the help of volunteers from the mentoring programs, like Future Possibilities, coming to my school and working with me on reading, writing, and helping me practice English. The relationship I had with my mentor was authentic and caring. I remember getting my first A on a spelling test and I couldn’t have done it without the patience, time and dedication that my mentor put in.
So, whenever I can I will always pay it forward to those in need.
What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek? My family gets me up in the morning. I’m thankful for them. They keep me grounded and focused on what really matters. Listening to music gets me through a tough week. There’s nothing like a good dance song to release the stress away! If that doesn’t work, I pray! My faith helps me get through things that are out of my control.
Who inspires you? When I see ordinary people helping each other, regardless how big or small the gestures are, that is always inspiring to me! People like my parents. They came to this country with just the clothes on their back, unable to speak English and lacking proper education but they still managed to find work, raise three daughters and save enough money to buy the house we rented for 20 years. They gave to others with what little we had. They invited people to dinner that we barely knew. They showed us that the meaning of family extends far beyond bloodlines.
How is Future Possibilities making an impact in Columbus? How can people get involved with the organization? They are helping shape the future by inspiring children, which can only mean great things for the city! Future Possibilities doesn’t just help kids succeed at their goals, they also partner with school staff and the parents of children in the program to provide support and ensure success. The program is active during the school year so volunteering is super easy! You meet once a week during the kids’ lunch period. If you can’t support Future Possibilities with your time, you can make a donation to the organization!
What’s the most exciting thing about Columbus right now? Easton is expanding, and I’m so happy that I don’t have to drive for miles to get to IKEA anymore!
What are three things that you wish Columbus had? 1) Columbus needs a high-speed rail system to connect us to other surrounding cities and areas like the east coast. 2) More ethnic festivals. What better way to connect with other cultures than a celebration with food, music and art? 3) Bojangles! I love their fried chicken.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them? The diverse people, the food, the mixture of young and old. People gravitate to Columbus because it’s a place you can call home and raise your kids. Columbus is a big supporter of small businesses and you can see that all over town. We have the big city flair with a local feel!