In Samie Brosseau’s successful application for the 2011 Don Lawrence Memorial Scholarship, recently presented to her by PCMA’s New England Chapter, she summed up years of questioning and struggle in one short sentence: “At the young age of 18, I left home against my parents’ demands, to pursue a higher education.”
Brosseau, now 24, grew up in the Twelve Tribes community in Island Point, Vt., part of a network of insular religious groups that have little to do with mainstream culture. Members share possessions, and everyone works in collective enterprises; children are homeschooled, and television, secular books and entertainment, and higher education are not permitted. When Brosseau left home, she took only what she could carry in a small suitcase. This past December, she graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in hospitality management.
The [Twelve Tribes] community is a great place for some people. Obviously it was not for me, but it was a very wholesome upbringing. I was homeschooled, and there was a family organic café that I grew up working in, so I learned a lot of cooking and baking. My dad also helped start a chain of retail stores. As a young teenager, I helped out running those stores.
Not everyone who grows up [in the community] has the opportunity to see anything outside. I started realizing that maybe [the outside world] was not as bad as they all told us in the community, that not everyone was evil and going to hell. When I started talking to people outside the community and building relationships, I think that is what really got me interested in getting out and seeing what else was out there. I knew that I did not want to live in the community, but I had no idea what I was going to be able to do.
[Leaving the community] was definitely an immense struggle. Having absolutely no idea how to file taxes or apply for financial aid or fill out paperwork or how to manage funds - that was probably my biggest challenge. I think that what really kept me going was knowing that at the end of the day I was happier, even though it was difficult, than I had been when I was with my family.
I have met a lot of people who have been mentors to me even though they are not blood related.
I am naturally an outgoing person, but coming from such a sheltered environment, it was difficult for me to integrate myself into the college atmosphere. I learned a lot by just figuring it out, and that is going to help me along the way - being able to relate to people, even though I come from a very different background from most. And all through college, I have had up to four jobs at one time, along with being a full-time student. So I think that the work ethic that I was taught growing up really helped me - the hospitality industry is something that is not a typical nine-to-five job necessarily.
For now, I would love to be in convention sales management or conference services coordinating. Education is very important to me, and long-term I would like to go to law school to study hospitality law.
My goal is to at some point be successful enough to fund a nonprofit organization to help people that went through the same thing as I did - some sort of support group and a place where they can get advice about things that took me twice as long to learn on my own.