Sami Subedi is a busy student – after immigrating from Nepal with her family at the age of eight, she is now a senior biology major with a minor in chemistry, a mentor for the College Assistance Migrant Program, and perhaps most impressively, the founder of the nonprofit organization Bhutanese Refugees Inspiring Growth, Humanity & Tradition.
BRIGHT works to assist any student with college applications and essays, the FAFSA and even SAT prep. The organization was also featured in One United Lancaster for its mental health sessions and focus on destigmatizing mental health in an article written by Subedi. BRIGHT is run by Subedi, along with a few other college students.
“When we started this, we just wanted to make a difference in other student’s lives because we know what being first-generation students looks like and how clueless we were when we first started,” Subedi says, “So, we all just really wanted to be the leaders we needed when we were going through this whole process blindly.”
“We hoped to send more students to college since we saw that there had been a significant decrease in the number of students attending college from our community. We wanted to see why and how we could tackle it, and that led to BRIGHT.”
BRIGHT began with the initial goal to specifically help the underrepresented local Bhutanese/Nepali community in Lancaster, but BRIGHT expanded and has been able to assist many other communities as well.
Subedi also helped initiate the Bhutanese Response Assistance Volunteer Effort during the COVID-19 pandemic. This organization made food for first responders and helped create kits with necessities for families, including items such as some groceries, baby formula, Tylenol, gloves, masks and hand sanitizer. For her efforts with both BRIGHT and BRAVE, Subedi was awarded as the 2021 Church World Service Refugee Leader of the Year.
Subedi credits her impressive work ethic to her desire to make the world a better place. “I am a first-generation student who has lived in a refugee camp and seen the worst of life. I want to make a difference in others’ lives to give them the best possible, and I think that’s what drives me so much to keep doing and keep moving.”
“I see how many students need this guidance, and they never ask because they don’t feel comfortable,” she continues. “When they see organizations with many others who are like them, they’ll join, and it will help them for the better.”
At Millersville, Subedi is also a mentor with the College Assistance Migrant Program, a University organization that provides support and retention services to first-year university students from migrant and seasonal farm worker families.
“I have been a mentor since my sophomore year for incoming first-year students. This comes with weekly checking in with students to help them transition smoothly into college life,” she explains.
“I can meet with them each week and have a conversation about how their classes are going, what the transition is like, and anything I can help them with, whether it is listening to them, helping them find resources or activities, or tutoring them in classes with which I can help. It builds a sense of trust, leadership, boundaries and friendship.”
Subedi has numerous professors to thank, including Dr. Heather Lehman for her guidance; Dr. Laura Ramos for her positive energy and motivation; Dr. Aaron Hains for his advice and willingness to assist; and Dr. Edward Rajaseelan for seeing something in Subedi that she initially did not see in herself.
She also thanks Dr. John Wallace, professor of biology, for listening and helping students find opportunities. “Sami is much more than a student,” Wallace says. “She is a beacon of hope for underrepresented students. She is a role model for students to follow towards success.”
“I don’t share much about what I do because I feel like it’s my responsibility to give it back to the community,” Subedi says, “but he sees me in both sides of being a community leader and a student who struggles and pushes through. He is really someone who looks out for his students and is always ready to help you succeed.”
After graduating, Subedi will be abroad in Milan, Italy, for three weeks. There, she will shadow doctors and physician’s assistants in different fields of medicine to learn about healthcare all around the world. Afterward, she hopes to attend school to become a physician’s assistant. “I would like to apply for PA school and, hopefully, become a PA,” she concludes. “I hope to help more people and students in our minority communities who want to walk the same path but do not know where to start.”