In Samie Brosseau’s successful application for the 2011 Don Lawrence Memo- rial 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.
HE [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.
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 success-
ful 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. n
— As told to Barbara Palmer pcma convene March 2012 23
ON LEAVING HOME: ”There was a constant struggle of missing my family and wanting to go back just to have them in my life again, and knowing that it was not some- thing that was pos- sible because I wanted to be happy.”
MEETING A MENTOR: Brosseau, left with University of Mas- sachusetts Professor Erin Tierney. “Professor Tierney has been a big influence in my life. She has been a phe- nomenal asset to my education. What really pushed me to that area of hospitality were the classes that I took with Professor Tierney, and then being involved in a lot of events.“