Through community organizations, Iovine and Young student hopes to break ‘narrow societal norms’

Samantha Broxton poses with a bright red USC shirt, paired with a tan jacket and light blue jeans. Broxton is looking down toward the shirt. In the background, two bookcases showcase various books and mementos with two photo frames below.
 Student Samantha Broxton looks to incorporate her degree with activities she’s involved in including her natural hair and lifestyle community. (Photo courtesy of Samantha Broxton)

Growing up watching her mother take on long shifts, late nights and earn low wages despite her hard work, Samantha Broxton’s determination and work ethic was practically ingrained in her since the beginning of her childhood. Now, it’s made evident when looking at all she is juggling while pursuing her master’s degree in integrated design, business and technology. 

Not only is she a full-time student, but Broxton is also the founder of her own natural hair and lifestyle community, the creator of a blog centered on her personal home life and the community outreach lead for Black Girls CODE L.A.

In hopes of ultimately piloting her own startup, Broxton said she wants to incorporate her future Iovine and Young Academy degree with her previous experience in finance to truly create something that aligns with endeavors she has been involved in. Broxton wants to use the degree to build connections with entrepreneurs and other like-minded individuals who she can work with on future business ventures. 

Before seeking a degree at USC, Broxton was working in commercial finance. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida in 2008, Broxton pursued commercial banking at companies such as BB&T. On the side, however, she was also working on her own passion projects, such as her blog and her natural hair and living community. Knowing the value of following one’s dreams, it was obvious to Broxton that she needed to encourage her children to explore their own interests and passions as well. 

When her 10-year-old daughter Sophie,  expressed curiosity in robotics, Broxton was committed to finding a program that would cater to her interests. After searching through several programs that worked primarily with older children, Broxton stumbled across Black Girls CODE, a non-profit organization that aims to provide Black girls from ages 7 to 17 with the technology and education to excel in STEM-related fields. 

Broxton and her daughter attended the first event for the organization’s newly launched Los Angeles chapter in 2016. Immediately after, both of them looked to become thoroughly involved in BGC. As Sophie was learning about topics including coding and 3D printing as a student, Samantha was spreading information about the organization’s missions and opportunities to other parents and caretakers as a BGC volunteer.

From the start of her involvement with Black Girls CODE, Broxton, who now serves as the community outreach lead for the organization’s L.A. chapter, noticed the impact the organization was having on her daughter. As compared to where Broxton grew up in South Florida, the area where she and her family live in Irvine, Calif. is much less ethnically and culturally diverse, which impacted her daughter’s attitude toward herself, Broxton said. 

“She became more aware of her otherness,” Broxton said of Sophie’s experience in their community. “It was really important for her to have a space in which she was around other girls that she could see herself in and other teachers and support groups that were talking about science and about the things that she was interested in, but also looked like her.” 

Jasmine Moore, the volunteer lead for BGC L.A., works with Broxton on projects to increase community engagement. Together, they build connections between the organization and companies such as Google, as well as other potential partners and sponsors. Moore said Broxton brings a unique perspective to the organization since she has two children ages 9 and 10.

“She’s very good at being relatable,” Moore said. “She knows what that demographic needs. So Samantha’s always been really passionate and excited about the work we’re doing and really getting out there and being part of the community.” 

Broxton said she hopes to help expand the organization throughout L.A. County. Bringing the group to USC’s campus is a possibility, she said. 

“I do think anything’s possible in the near future,” Broxton said. “I do think there’s a lot of really great, cool things happening as far as STEAM and STEM and inclusivity in Southern California, and organizations like USC are natural partners for that kind of work.”

In many of her endeavors, Broxton works on increasing inclusivity in predominantly white industries. Similar to the work she does with BGC, she also encourages inclusivity in other professional sectors, such as finance. It was during her experience in finance that Broxton was influenced to create SisterLocked, an online community focusing on natural hair, lifestyle, beauty and fashion. 

In many traditional industries, Black women are pressured to wear hairstyles that are not always attainable or natural for them in order to look “more professional,” Broxton said. While Broxton had locs during her corporate career, she observed that other Black women were not able to wear natural styles during their professional life. After receiving numerous questions on Facebook from women asking about her hair, Broxton founded the online community.

“Sometimes Black women are risking it all to fit a narrow societal norm, so I wanted a space to talk about natural hair [and] natural living,” Broxton said. “It doesn’t matter what your hair looks like as long as you feel good, you feel confident [and] you don’t feel forced to have it.” 

In addition to creating SisterLocked, which now has about 35,000 followers across several social media platforms, Broxton also made her own blog, Raising Self. The blog — where Broxton writes about her personal life — was made as a creative avenue during a fluctuating time in her life. Becoming a mother so soon after starting her career, Broxton said she had lots of thoughts about motherhood, work life and relationships that she wanted to express.  

“I’ve always loved storytelling, I’ve always loved communicating,” Broxton said. “It was a really good outlet during a time where it’s super scary to frame my narrative and document my journey and form community with other interesting people all around.” 

Raising Self and Broxton’s other multifaceted endeavors are just some things that she hopes to continue. In the future, she said she envisions herself as a leader in the finance industry and a volunteer within her community for years to come, but she also wants to build out her own dreams and launch her own businesses.

“I want to help build out a company that is holistic and has [a] positive presence in whatever community they’re doing work in,” Broxton said. “I do think in the latter years of my working life, I would love to help launch micro-businesses in small towns and small communities.”

Keisha Polonio, former executive director of Created Tampa, met Broxton through the organization when she volunteered to help women who have been sex trafficked or sexually exploited. From the minute the two met, Polonio said she was impressed with all that Broxton had already accomplished and is eager to see what else Broxton will achieve. 

“She’s already done so much,” Polonio said. “If she’s run this fast in her life, I just can’t wait to see the rest of her life unfold and the amazing things that she will continue to do that benefit the world around her.”