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She Was an ‘All-American Girl’

Samantha Thompson was the quintessential all-American preteen.

With striking honey brown eyes and lustrous auburn hair, she was what her grandfather’s generation would have called “a looker.”

Not only was she on the honor roll and her junior high school’s student council, she ran track, played clarinet in the band, and sang in her church’s youth choir.

“All of my children have been special,” said Samantha’s mother, Luanne Thompson. “But Sam’s the youngest and she was especially gifted. Even at a young age, we knew she would end up going places.”

And go places she did.

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She competed in the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee and came in 5th place.

“I’ve always loved words and trying to increase my vocabulary,” said Sam. “At night, I would read a page out of the dictionary before I went to bed. The next morning, I’d have my mom quiz me on the words.”

Samantha also competed at the state level in the interscholastic league, earning first place in the extemporaneous speech competition and second place in literary criticism.

“She’s a natural,” said Betty Burdette, Sam’s seventh grade speech teacher. “She didn’t have any fear being on stage in front of strangers. That’s rare. And although it can be learned, Sam had a organic and easy command of her audience.”

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But in Samantha’s eight grade year, things started to change.

Her grades, once in the high As, took a nose dive and hovered around a C average. Instead of her outgoing and bubbly personality, Sam suddenly seemed withdrawn and quiet.

“We were really concerned about her,” said Luanne Thompson. “My beautiful and sparkling girl became this sullen creature. It hurt my heart to see her like that. I know the teenage years can be trying, but this was like night and day. I wondered if something had happened to her.”

But something had happened to Sam…