“So, the first question I have for you is, how are you?”
Samantha Autry, affectionately known by her peers as Scooter, sighs, glances around the small living room of her dorm in Swanson Hall, before glancing back up and shrugging softly.
“I’m doing ok. I’m feeling drained, but I’ve got pretty high hopes that it can only get better from here.”
Life for Autry is, on the surface, draining indeed. Pulling all-nighters studying for tests and trying to muster the strength to make it to her 8 a.m. class while also trying to maintain a 3.0 GPA are all on her daily to-do list. However, the announcement that students who live on campus at Piedmont must have active health insurance to continue living on campus going into the next year, seemed like another thing to add to Autry’s list of setbacks.
Born in April of 1998 in Covington, Georgia, Autry grew up with her mother Deborah, father Michael, and a sister, Maddie, in a seemingly standard American family unit.
Throughout her youth, however, Autry was able to pick up on frustrations that were bubbling under the surface between her parents, so even at the age of 7, it came as no surprise to her when her parents announced that they were divorcing.
“It was one of those divorce situations that you don’t see on TV, where people are actually happy to get divorced,” Autry said. “My mom was really nervous about it. I told her that it was the best news I’d heard in a long time when she told us.”
Autry also finds no truth to the ‘American family’ societal ideal, as she nor any of her friends can relate to it.
“I feel like the ideal family is a dead dream,” Autry said with a small laugh. “I’ve never had that, and I’ve never talked to anyone who has.”
Growing up, money didn’t grow on trees for Autry. While she was able to go to the ER if she needed to, regular checkups stopped at a young age, due to lack of the necessary household income. Suffice it to say, an active insurance plan isn’t something Autry has the means to afford on her own.
“I haven’t been to a checkup at the doctor since freshman year of high school,” Autry said.
High school proved to as teenage drama and angst-ridden for Autry as it is for most. Break ups, friend groups dissolving and issues with a former friend who turned everyone against her plagued her sophomore and junior years.
However, Autry didn’t allow these high school hiccups to break her spirit. Looking back, Autry realized that, while it may have been “petty he said she said” business, she took note of the negative behaviors people around her were displaying and decided she wanted no part of that.
“I stopped judging people so hard, I stopped putting people who hurt me ahead of me,” Autry said. “I focused on myself and the people who had always been there for me.”
College life for Autry started out idyllic, but during the course of her sophomore year, she has been experiencing some setbacks that leave her feeling disheartened.
“My freshman year went really well, but this year I’ve had some trouble keeping myself together,” Autry said. “It feels more like what they talked about in high school, where you have to study, you have to focus, you have to attend class.”
Autry recounted that in the initial announcement of the campus insurance policy, it was said that Piedmont would be offering a student health care plan. I reached out to Dean Emily Pettit for more information, and she replied with an email containing information on rates, deductibles, and all the standard financial fare.
“Through United Healthcare, the deductible will be $250 a year, physician visits $25, with an annual rate of $2,008 for students, with the possibility of students being able to use excess financial aid to pay when it is added to their student account,” the email read.
Autry fears that, due to her lack of knowledge about insurance and inability to afford it, she’ll be unable to return to Piedmont, which could derail her career path in technical theater.
“I don’t really have the money to be in this college right now,” Autry said. “My parents have helped me in the biggest way they could, but I’m still on the borderline of not being able to come back anyway, apart from this insurance thing.”
Despite the numerous setbacks she faces, she considers herself to be motivated until the end, and those around her would have to agree.
Jordan Approbato, Autry’s roommate since freshman year, lamented on Autry’s dedication towards her work in theater.
“When she does theater work, her whole heart is into it, she’s so dedicated to it.” Approbato said.
When some days get a bit too rough for Autry, she keeps the advice of high school theater teacher, Mrs. Garrett, close to heart. Needing a fine arts credit in high school, she chose theater, and found it be the right fit for her, further cementing her career path in technical theater.
“The whole community grew with me.” Autry said. “The teacher led me to doing behind the scenes work, and always told me that I was good at what I was doing.”
When talking about the lasting impact that the late Mama Garrett had on her life, Autry’s voice became shaky, and she had to pause to take a moment, reaching for a paper towel to dry her eyes.
“I still carry her words with me.” Autry said, sniffling and dabbing her eyes with the paper towel.
Even when the world seems to be against Autry, she knows she is not the only student with the same fears for the future.
“It’s not fair for those who have been given a bad hand in life in terms of money,” Autry said. “There are people working so hard to get scholarships and take out loans, but not everyone has the same opportunities.”
With Autry’s financial state in mind, she’s been considering taking a semester off of school to get it all together, though she can’t help but feel discouraged.
“I’ve dug myself such a financial rut here,” Autry said. “When you walk in here, they tell you it’s going to be easy, and it’s a whole different story for people struggling financially.”
Despite all the adversities that Autry faces, she remains hopeful for her future, post college. She wants to go to Atlanta and get into the technical theater scene there, all while trying to find a steady paying job that will aid in paying off her student loans, as well as giving her the satisfaction that she’s doing what she loves.
“So, I’ll end the interview with this question. How are you, Scooter?”
She laughs to herself, and shrugs.
“I think I’m alright. I’m just going to keep moving forward from here, figure out my plans for the coming years. Nowhere to go but up, right?”
Source Contact Info
Samantha Autry: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jordan Approbato: email@example.com
Dean Emily Pettit: firstname.lastname@example.org