Samantha Stachel was the Hannah Montana girl who lived a double life — the average school girl by day and a determined, powerful and peaceful warrior by night. She played big her whole life regardless of the circumstances.
Although Samantha battled Ewing’s Sarcoma, a malignant bone tumor, she lived her life to the fullest. Cancer was seen as just an inconvenience. Surgery one day … the next day at her brother’s soccer game. Chemotherapy in the morning … back at school by 11 a.m.
“Cancer has tried to knock me down with several recurrences since the age of seven, specifically three times during high school. Each and every time I pushed forward, refusing to quit or slow down,” Samantha wrote in her admissions essay for Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University.
Samantha highly valued education. She continued her essay by saying, “During this demanding time, I committed to maintaining as normal of a life as possible. With the support of my teachers and family, I strived to attend school on a regular basis, stay current with my assignments and prepare for tests. It was not easy but my determination produced rewarding results.”
Samantha was a committed student who earned a 4.0 GPA at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale. She was a member of the National Honors Society and also established a humanitarian club called Helping Hands where she enlisted the help of her classmates to participate in holiday gift drives, charity walks, fundraisers and hands-on service to benefit local nonprofits and her annual adopt-a-family gift drive. The club’s motto: “Helping our community, one hand at a time.”
Her stellar academic achievements and community-service credentials led to her being admitted to Barrett. She was excited to attend this fall to major in history. She loved Barrett for its supportive community of students.
Samantha added in her admissions essay, “The obstacles of chemo treatments, multiple surgeries, radiation, weekly doctor visit, and monthly scans have challenged me every step of the way but also have strengthened my resolve, built my character in terms of my approach to my life, taught me compassion, and given me a deep sense of gratitude. My life experience has made me realize my desire of helping others. Being fortunate to have support during my journey to achieve my health goals, I, in turn, would love to help others achieve their goals.”
Samantha passed away on April 18, 2013, at the age of 18.
“Samantha gave and received love that can fill many meaningful lifetimes,” said Paul Stachel, Samantha’s father. “She valued integrity, people, communication, humor and family. In every aspect of her life Samantha always played big.”
While Samantha cannot physically attend ASU as a student, her spirit and passion for helping others will be present at Barrett through the “Samantha Stachel Play Big Scholarship” established in her honor. The scholarship will be awarded to students who demonstrate academic excellence, character and leadership in the face of challenging circumstances.
“Barrett is a place where Samantha planned to play big,” Samantha’s mother Barrie added. “This scholarship fund will allow her to do that through the dreams and accomplishments of others who overcome their own personal obstacles.
“The criteria for the scholarship recipients are simple,” Barrie continued. “They should be steadfastly committed to education and willing to leap over obstacles to achieve their goals. Maybe they’ve been bullied, faced a difficult living situation, or had a health challenge. The common thread is that, like Samantha, they did not let their circumstances define them or their goals.”
The Stachel family has set a goal of raising $100,000 in the first year and growing the fund to $500,000 over successive years. In just the first months since the fund was established more than $86,000 has already been contributed. Additional information about the scholarship, and how to contribute, is availablehere.
“Samantha played big…that is her legacy. That’s why we came to Barrett to establish a scholarship in her name, because Barrett is a place where the students play big,” Paul said.
“We want to help people who are facing their own challenges and who will be inspired and go forward to accomplish great things. Samantha was a person who led by action and we want to support others to do the same,” he added.
“Every time I tell my story, I inspire others to face their challenges. Everyone has or will have challenges. The challenges may not be the same, but knowing that others also have a story helps people to believe they can step up to their challenge. I learned to not only share who I truly am but to express myself because no matter what, I am loved. Taking this risk and choosing to walk through the public door helped me to share my story, set me free and send me on my way to continue my life’s journey, and hopefully inspire others to do the same.” – Samantha Stachel