Senior Spotlight: Sammy Caruso

Caruso’s activism catapults him into future

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Say it: Sammy Caruso (12) helps anchor the last broadcast show of the year on May 11, which was about seniors. Mrs. Debbie Madison, adviser, said, “Sammy was our ‘news guy’ in broadcasting. You could ask him about anything on the news, especially politics and he usually had information on it. When we would brainstorm stories, he had nine or ten story ideas a week when others would submit two or three.” Photo: Screencast capture of May 11 broadcast

Sammy Caruso first became interested in politics during 2015, when Bernie was running for president. Caruso took a break from his interest in politics after Donald Trump won the election in 2016. 

Then, there was a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 

“After I had heard about the Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, that my friend’s cousin was in the shooting, I started to get back into politics,” Caruso said. “After this, I organized the walkout at the school and I later attended the March for our Lives event in Washington, D.C.”

After Caruso had gone to Washington D.C., this had made him realize that now was the most important time to speak out about his beliefs. 

“After going to D.C., my friends and I continued to fight and get involved,” Caruso said. “After the Trump election, I began to get involved and fight about certain political issues I cared about. I learned that beating Trump might have been a loss, but we can still win all the individual wars, which are battles over other ideals.”

Caruso has used Trump’s election to discover the issues he truly cares about and wants to fight for. Despite having some setbacks in his journey, he has continued to fight for what he believes in.  

“Getting involved in politics for me was never about Hilary, Trump or even Bernie,” Caruso said. “Getting involved in politics is finding those issues you are about: gun violence, women’s rights, the environment, any issue that you are about and pursuing it.”

Caruso continued to be involved in political campaigns for quite a few years, and has greatly encouraged students to speak out about their political beliefs. 

“I highly encourage students to speak out because I personally feel like I gained, not only more knowledge about politics, but more knowledge about the real world and using skills for the real world,” Caruso said. “Speaking out about your beliefs helps you learn a lot about yourself, things I never even knew I would learn about myself.”

Last year, he gave a TEDTalk at the Dayton Masonic Center hoping to inspire activism. 

“In my TEDTalk, I talked about the importance of youth activism and I kept on encouraging people to get involved in politics and different local political campaigns or federal campaigns as well,” Caruso said. “You don’t always have to follow the status quo, stand up for what you believe in.” 

You don’t always have to follow the status quo, stand up for what you believe in.”

Caruso has worked for many different politicians such as Adrian Draper and John McManus. He was the treasurer for John McManus during his 2018 campaign, and feels that these experiences helped him build relationships in with his community leaders.

“I feel like I have been able to develop strong relationships with city leaders such as the mayor of Dayton, Nan Whaley,” Caruso said. “I’ve especially enjoyed getting to know Dr. Paul Waller through this experience, too. Trying to set up all of these rallies obviously is going to be a lot of work and Waller has been really supportive of running these walkouts and different political events. I feel like I can talk to him about unpolitical events and he has also been a mentor figure for me which I really enjoy.”

Caruso has felt that he has people supporting him and his beliefs, which is one of the many reasons why he really encourages people to get involved in politics, even if it is only using their voice on social media 

“I feel like people sometimes underestimate the power of something as simple as posting something on social media has,” Caruso said. “Something like that can really get people talking and getting people to start talking about an issue is a great first step.”

A thread with Caruso’s activism is gun laws, which mainly started with the increase in school shootings. Caruso strongly believes that with such a difficult issue, it is hard to get people talking about it. 

“Oakwood is definitely a more privileged community and I think that’s not really where a lot of this stuff really happens,” Caruso said. “I do think that the shooting in Dayton put the whole gun rights and laws issue into perspective of these people here, considering it was happening pretty far away from us. So the shooting definitely got people talking about the issue.”

These different campaigns, rallies and walkouts have greatly impacted Caruso and he has learned a lot of different life skills through these experiences. 

“These experiences definitely taught me social skills and I felt like I really learned how to talk to people,” Caruso said. “I feel like I was able to learn social skills that I wouldn’t be able to learn in a classroom. Also, public speaking was something that I used to hate and I feel like I got a lot better at that after doing so many speeches. It was definitely a trial and error experience, but I’m really glad it happened.”

These different experiences also positively impacted Caruso’s experience at Oakwood. 

“I feel like I made a lot of lifelong friends with people, even if they were in different grades than me,” Caruso said. “I gained a good relationship with Dr. Waller, which I’m really happy I did.”

Caruso will be attending the University of Michigan next year majoring in history and political science.