Gala 2023: Interview with Featured Performer Samantha “Just Sam” Diaz

After an incredible performance at our 2023 Gala in New York City, American Idol winner Samantha “Just Sam” Diaz sat down with us to discuss what performing and serving with buildOn meant to them. The full interview is below:

BUILDON: So first question, incredible performance. How did you feel up there?

SAMANTHA “JUST SAM” DIAZ: I was super nervous, so I had to keep looking at Wendy, Trevar, my grandma, my team, like they have great energy. Everybody’s dancing in the front, everybody’s having a good time. And yeah, I was nervous, but I was remembering why I was there, so that definitely helped me through.

BUILDON: Definitely. That’s important, right? So what do you think about buildOn’s work now that you have experienced it firsthand, not just today, but even at the service that you attended during Halloween?

SAM: I think that what buildOn is doing is truly incredible work. And it’s not only because of what you’re doing here in my city, but what you guys are doing all across the world. I think it’s incredible. And just having a part in helping fight against poverty and illiteracy, that is incredible. And to say that you guys have built schools all over the world, I think it’s truly amazing work.

BUILDON: Thank you so much. Thank you. That really means a lot to us. Thank you. I’m so glad that you resonate with this mission because as I’ve said countless times to so many people, buildOn is an organization that I feel really impacts people on the ground. There’s so many organizations that do great work, and I feel like this is the first organization that I’ve seen firsthand personally that is impacting students day in and day out, week in, week out. It’s real impact that they feel, that they notice, that they experience.

SAM: And it’s not just children, it’s people of all ages. I think that’s what’s also beautiful. I got to see on your Instagram page a video of this woman who recently learned to read and write, and I thought it was so beautiful. And I’m just like, we need more of that. It’s incredible what you guys are doing.

BUILDON: For sure. Thank you. Thank you for your kind words. Thank you. One last question. What impact would it have had on your life if buildOn would’ve been in your school when you were growing up?

SAM: If buildOn was in my school growing up, first of all, I would’ve been home later than I always was. I was always finding or trying to find something to do after school, and I was into extracurricular activities. I played all kinds of sports. I volunteered for programs as well, but nothing at all like buildOn. And I think that had my community had something like this, oh, I definitely would’ve taken advantage of it for sure. And not only that, but it would’ve kept so many people off of the streets in my neighborhood. There are people who literally died before their time because of gun violence and gang violence. And if they were not on the streets, if they were doing things like serving their communities or even just in a program, it doesn’t have to be serving. If they had something to do, I think it would’ve made a world of difference.

There was a video on the buildOn page and this kid was like, buildOn is helping me improve my grades. And if I had been in buildOn, okay, my grades would’ve been amazing all throughout my academic years because I was really smart. But I just know that for me personally, would’ve definitely been a part of it. For sure. A hundred percent.

BUILDON: Thank you so much.

SAM: Thank you!