“You can always be the exception to the rule. It just depends on how you want to make your own journey.”
Samantha Stratton ‘13 began her journey to becoming a community leader by choosing to pursue a degree in Communication, with a concentration in Electronic Media and a minor in Music, from the University of Indianapolis.
“I chose to study at UIndy first off because it was close to home,” said Samantha. “I looked at other colleges, but I wanted to stay close to my community and family. I also liked the class sizes at UIndy. They weren’t too small, but they weren’t too big to get that personalized teacher-student interaction. Finally, the Department of Communication is just so great. I was able to get on the radio – like the actual radio – my freshman year.”
Samantha would go on to serve as Operations Director for WICR and Stage Director for UIndyTV. Additionally, she participated in Choir and completed a number of Communication-related internships.
But she almost missed out on one of her most beneficial classes and offers incoming freshmen some advice to avoid missing their own opportunities.
“Take weird classes, like classes that you wouldn’t necessarily expect would help you,” she said. “If you’re interested in it, take it. If you have an elective and you want to do it, just do it because you never know what may come from it. If it’s not gonna fit your schedule, audit it. One of my most beneficial classes was ‘TV directing’ and if I had never audited it, I don’t know if I would have gone in the direction that I did.”
And the skills that Samantha gained in ‘TV directing’ definitely came in handy.
After graduation, Samantha worked in news media with positions at stations in Crawfordsville and Indianapolis, including WISH-TV. While these were valuable experiences, Samantha never intended to pursue a career in news. So, she continued her education in graduate school in Savannah, Georgia.
From graduate school Samantha moved onto Los Angeles, where she worked a variety of odd jobs before earning a position at an Amazon Pick-Up Point. Samantha quickly rose through the ranks of Amazon, thanks in part to a supportive boss who knew of Samantha’s interest in film and television. This boss helped Samantha secure a position in Amazon Studio’s script department.
“In the scripts department, I was over production coordination for our subscriptions and sports,” said Samantha. “So the things I did at UIndy – the football games, the basketball games, – really came full circle. The skills I learned at UIndy got me that job.”
To this day, Samantha’s favorite project from her time in the scripts department was producing a concert featuring Taylor Swift, Becky G, Dua Lipa and other popular artists.
From the scripts department, Samantha moved onto the franchise department, where she assists with the marketing of popular Amazon shows like The Boys, Rings of Power, Wheel of Time and other projects she’s not allowed to tell us about yet.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Samantha, like many of us, decided it was best to return home to Indiana, to be with her family, and continue to work for Amazon Studios remotely. While coming back to Indiana had always been in Samantha’s plans, she hadn’t expected it to be this soon – six years – after graduation. But she didn’t let this change in schedule discourage her from achieving her dream of opening a community-focused space on Main Street in Beech Grove.
That’s when Silver Linings Coffeehouse was born.
“I grew up coming to Main Street with my grandpa, who’s a firefighter,” said Samantha. “Main Street has gone through these ups and downs, one day being really busy and then the next, everything shut down. Now it seems like we’re back on the upswing again. I’ve always wanted to do something that brings the community together. That’s where the name, “Silver Linings” came from, from me thinking about what I could do with this situation [the pandemic] that nobody obviously wanted or foresaw. It’s been a lot of fun talking to people and getting to see people come hang out and have fun regularly.”
In its first year of operation, Silver Linings has brought together community members from all over the South Side – Beech Grove, UIndy, and many more. Looking forward, Samantha wants to continue building and strengthening the sense of belonging and community within the south side neighborhoods and one day, create this generation’s Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
“I’m really hopeful that more people in the community continue to find us,” said Samantha. “I would like to have more events and things for kids because ultimately, one day I want to do something similar to what Mr. Rogers did. I’d like to create a children’s show that is educational but also entertaining.”
You can visit Silver Linings Coffeehouse and see the photo of Mr. Rogers that inspires Samantha every day at 700 Main Street in Beech Grove.