Samantha Deragowski Denefe, a former basketball player at Hendrix College, attended ASLF in 2009 and the National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF) in Washington DC in 2010. At the national forum, her small group volunteered at the Southeast White House, an outreach center in an impoverished area of Southeast Washington DC that serves as a place of reconciliation, a refuge and resource center, and a ministry to children and families in the neighborhood. The Southeast White House is situated in an area that is often referred to as the forgotten quadrant of the city because of the limited number of social services and assistance available to the community.
After serving there that afternoon, Samantha made plans to volunteer at the Southeast White House the following summer. This experience transformed her. At the Southeast White House, a major emphasis is placed on relationships, and Samantha experienced authentic relationships between urban and suburban, rich and poor, black and white, young and old.
“At ASLF and NSLF, I had heard the term ‘intentional relationship,’ but at the Southeast White House, I experienced it myself,” Samantha said. “I was able to see Jesus in a diverse environment that was focused on being authentic with one another, healing the broken, feeding the poor, and most importantly changing lives.”
She took what she learned back to Hendrix College and started a weekly scripture study focused on intentional relationships and vulnerability with one another. They started with just three students and expanded to 25 students in one year. The following year Samantha was the head of her chapter of Catholic Campus Ministry and began to implement on a wider scale a focus on relationship.
“I realized that I was drawn to ASLF, NSLF and the Southeast White House because Truth was there, and now other Hendrix students were being drawn to Truth as well.”
Since graduating from Hendrix, Samantha married Matt Denefe and they have a beautiful daughter named Faith.