When 18-year-old Samuel Collins thinks of what comes after graduation, he says his lifetime of schooling, mentorship, community and faith at Lanier Christian Academy will always have a mark on his actions and guide what sometimes looks like an uncertain path.
“I just want to be a better person and a better follower in Christ. That’s something that really gives me good motivation. I know that God’s going to bless me through all of it, and he’s the one paving my path, even though some of it is kind of blurry right now,” Collins said.
Staff at LCA describe Collins as a natural leader, someone who wants to make a lasting difference on the community he’s a part of so that others will follow in his footsteps.
Collins said his contributions were made on the shoulders of others who came before him.
“The way I’ve grown up, I’ve just had really good leaders around me that I feel like have motivated me to be a better person. … So, them pushing me kind of made me feel like I wanted to do that. ... So I try to push people around me to be better people, too,” he said, adding that being able to make an impact on his sister, two years his junior, and others her age was a driving factor through his school career. “I’ve been at the school forever, so it’s also just planting those seeds to make it so those people might even have a better school experience than I had.”
Collins said he plans to major in sports management, with a dream of working on the marketing or public relations team for a major organization like the Georgia Bulldogs or Atlanta Hawks. The self-described sports fanatic said his love of team sports, and part of the reason for his love of community, is thanks to his experience at LCA.
After he picked up basketball in middle school, Collins said the rest was history.
Class of 2021
Read stories of outstanding seniors across Hall County in our Class of 2021 special section. Pick up a copy of the print publication, which lists names of all the graduating seniors, inside the May 8-9 weekend edition of The Times.
“That kind of skyrocketed me into the basketball realm,” the shooting guard said, adding that he played for LCA all four years of high school, as well as ran cross country his final year. “It’s definitely taught me teamwork. I probably say without it, it probably would’ve made me a more selfish person. Because in basketball, it’s not really about the one person on the court. It’s about all five people on the court working together for one goal.”
But Collins didn’t stop with just his sports participation at LCA. He also was an active member of the National Honor Society, LCA’s student leadership program and Youth Leadership Hall through the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, all while leading a small group of eighth graders at 12 Stone Church and maintaining his 3.8 GPA.
And while the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on his last two years of school, Collins said it also challenged his self-control and sense of self even further. Of all the skills he said he was forced to sharpen, time management was chief among them. The isolation, he said, was the hardest part.
But Collins also said the pandemic put into perspective his priorities and the influences he wanted to surround himself with.
“It really shined a light on who was closest in your life and who was just kind of around. That made me definitely reassess my friend group and made me understand that it’s much better to have a … tight-knit group of friends and a group of friends that are going to push you than having a group of friends who are going to push you in a negative direction,” he said. “That’s something that I definitely say about COVID-19 that impacted me for the better. … But it’s been very interesting having to navigate.”
The graduating senior credits his success to basketball coach, David Roberts, his parents, siblings, his small group leader Kyle Lance and previous senior classes full of people who he said pushed him to grow personally, academically and in his faith.
“(They) were not shy, either in the sports realm, or in general, with just giving really good advice that helped me blossom as a person,” he said. “I’m excited to see what’s next for me. It’s kind of bittersweet, because I’ve been in this school system since kindergarten … but I’m excited for change. I’m excited to grow as a person, grow more as a leader and, yeah, just excited for what’s next.”
Collins said he hopes that he passed on those feelings to others in years below him and that he can create ripples that continue to expand in the community.
Collins hasn’t yet committed to a school, but said he’s choosing between Lee University, Emmanuel College and Toccoa Falls College. He said he’s weighing his options and the multiple academic scholarships he’s been offered.