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Saintizaire Learned All the Right Moves at Boys Town

Sam found the way to move his life forward at Boys Town.

As a ​youngster, Sam Saintizaire made a big move with his parents from the family’s native Haiti to the United States.

In his teens, Sam was always on the move with a crowd of peers who often were involved in trouble and turmoil.

Before Sam would find his path to success, it would take one more major move – to Boys Town.

Sam was 5 when his family relocated from Haiti to Boynton Beach, Florida. As a teenager, he began to hang out and run around with the wrong crowd.

“I was making some bad decisions in school and with my friends,” he said.

When Sam was given the option of going to Boys Town in Nebraska, he made one of the toughest, but most important, decisions of his young life. 

“I knew I needed to make a change,” Sam said. “My parents were frustrated with me getting into trouble and not doing well in school. It was the right decision.”

Arriving at Boys Town as a high school freshman, Sam initially had a tough time making the transition to a more structured environment in a totally different climate.

“It was really hard,” he said. “I had made one move from Haiti to Florida. That was tough enough. But coming to Nebraska was a big adjustment. I hated the weather. I hated the cold. It was really hard to adjust at first. I was in a new place, living with a set of Family-Teachers ® who were great, but with a bunch of guys who I didn’t know. And I had to follow all these new rules. It took me a good year to adjust.”

One thing that made the adjustment a little easier was the opportunity to play sports.

Sam loved to compete, and participated in every athletic activity he could. He played football, basketball and baseball, and ran track. He excelled in football, helping to lead the Boys Town Cowboys to a 7-2 record and a spot in the state playoffs during his senior year. 

As Sam fell into the rhythm of life at Boys Town, he learned helpful skills and began to chart a new path for himself. He also found some great mentors along the way. In addition to his Family-Teachers, the married couple who provided care for him and the other boys in his Family Home, he looked up to Cheikh Fall, Boys Town’s strength and conditioning coach.

“Cheikh had a big influence on me,” Sam said. “I could relate to him since he was formerly a Boys Town kid, too. And he came from another country, just like me. He was someone that I could turn to when I needed direction in sports.”

Sam also credited his freshman study hall instructor, Stevie Gass, with helping him through some tough times.

“Mrs. Gass was always there for me,” Sam said. “She was the best! When I needed to talk, she was the person I would turn to. She gave me so much confidence in myself. She was the one that always believed in me.”

And that, in turn, helped Sam believe in himself.

Sam credits Gass with encouraging him to run for Mayor of Boys Town his senior year. Sam won, earning the most votes from his fellow students, and he credits her with helping him to the victory.

“I told her I was too shy to run for Mayor,” Sam said. “But she said I wasn’t shy. She said I was just scared. She told me she would help me if I wanted the help. I can’t thank her enough.”

And Sam’s popularity with his peers didn’t stop there. He was also crowned Homecoming King his senior year and earned cheers for a stellar high school football career. After graduating from Boys Town, Sam headed to the University of Nebraska at Kearney on a football scholarship.

Gass said she saw a special person in Sam from the very start.

“I had the pleasure of watching Sam grow from a confused boy to a confident young man,” Gass said. “I think what impressed me the most about Sam was his compassion for the kids who were struggling. The students always knew that they had a friend when Sam was around. Even to this day, when I think of him, I smile.”

Sam’s strong ties to Boys Town frequently bring him back to the place he calls his second home. Leslie and Roberto Lucero-Miner, his Family-Teachers during his senior year, have become like his second set of parents.

“They took me in like I was their own son,” Sam said. “They really did help guide me when it came time for me to make some tough decisions after high school. I always knew I could go to them for advice.”

Looking back on his decision to go to Boys Town, Sam said he knows it’s one of the best moves he ever made.

“I was always told that if you do what you need to do to be successful, Boys Town will always be there for you,” he said. “They have never let me down. I owe a lot to Boys Town.”