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The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

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The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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Sam Harris’ passion for helping uplifts those around

Danny Aronsohn
COMMUNITY WITH COMMUNICATION. Sam Harris has uplifted his community by advocating for interactions and open conversations. Despite his own experience at school, he hopes to create a more engaged community. In doing so, he believes he and people in general can make a difference.

For his entire life, Sam Harris has always been a helper. In middle school, he’d spend his free time helping others in both social and academic situations, from sorting out disagreements between fellow students to assisting teachers while mentoring peers during after-school programming. Today, Mr. Harris continues his passion for helping people, a help underscored by a belief in the power of connection — the ability to use open communication to solve problems and transcend differences.

Mr. Harris attended Mollison Elementary School, a public school located in Bronzeville. Despite always collaborating with peers and teachers, he hated school. He felt discouraged by it, unmotivated by the harsh, authoritative words of the adults in his life. 

“Everything was pressure. All the teachers were like, ‘You need to do this, you need to do that.’ You’re not going to be anything in life,” Mr. Harris said. “So when you’re dealing with that pressure and then you have other things going on in your life, school discourages you.”

He noticed this among his peers as well. This is what prompted him to pursue the line of work he’s spent a large part of his life: He wanted to find a better way to communicate.

“I had to change my whole thought process,” Mr. Harris said. “I was making myself mad, because I was not changing what I was doing. It goes back to communication — talking, having an open mind to other things.”

Mr. Harris has worked for the Department of Safety Services for the University of Chicago Police for 17 years. His first role was at the Booth School of Business, where he’d spend his days in the student common area starting conversations between students.

“Instead of everybody being close to each other, they were very far apart,” Mr. Harris said. “One would be sitting and one standing, so I’d come around. Then they both would speak and talk and that’s how they got the sense to talk with one another.”

Such interactions showed Mr. Harris he wanted to address these problems with younger ages, so he transitioned to being a security guard at the Laboratory Schools. He worked in Blaine Hall greeting families and young students, always insisting they refer to him by his first name.

“Sam would make it a point to speak to everybody,” said Sari Weichbrodt, a friend and former Lab parent. “He would do it in a way that was friendly, approachable, nonjudgmental. I think that newer parents or families to the school would notice that everyone talks to Sam.”

Since 2019, Mr. Harris has worked a few blocks away as the supervisor of community service officers at the UChicago Woodlawn Charter School. He enjoys it because he relates to the students he serves.

“I think it’s fulfilling. A lot of them start off going to school because their parents tell them to go to school,” Mr. Harris said. “As they stay here, and I talk and communicate with them, they go to school for themselves.”

Mr. Harris spends his days bonding and interacting with those around him, something he’s carried with him throughout his entire life. This is what has made him such an impactful member in the Lab, Hyde Park and South Side communities.

“Sam Harris is a person who loves people. He really does,” said Ms. Weichbrodt. “It really is, I think, the defining feature of Sam.”

Mr. Harris sees his interactions with others as small ways to make a difference. He views communication to be as simple as being human.

“People are human — you’re human. So by you being human, you have feelings,” Mr. Harris said. “I love talking to people. I love trying to make people’s day. As long as I know I’ve made your day for that time that I was with you, what happens after that, you can carry with you.”

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About the Contributors
Katie Sasamoto-Kurisu
Katie Sasamoto-Kurisu, Editor-in-Chief
Katie Sasamoto-Kurisu is a member of the Class of 2024 and serves as an editor-in-chief. She joined the staff as a sophomore in the 2021-22 year. Working on a team, meeting new people while writing stories and learning new skills are her favorite parts of being a journalist. Her favorite piece she has written is “Helping hand: Bronzeville church gives back for Thanksgiving.” In addition to journalism, Katie enjoys competitive swimming, reading and ring-collecting. Awards: 2024 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, community story: superior 2024 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: First place, sports news, “UChicago economics study tests baseball team” 2024 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: Certificate of merit, news page design (Page 2) 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Honorable mention, online package 2022 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: Briefs writing, first place (with Chloë Alexander, Louis Auxenfans, Joaquin Figueroa, Chloe Ma, Amy Ren), Vol. 98, Issue 8 (March 10, 2022), Page 3
Danny Aronsohn
Danny Aronsohn, Photographer
Danny Aronsohn is a photographer and a member of the Class of 2026. His favorite part of photojournalism is taking photos of his friends in the Lab community. Outside of photojournalism, Danny enjoys playing soccer and is interested in producing beats on SoundCloud.  

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  • N

    Nanny ShawnFeb 21, 2024 at 3:58 pm

    Sam I am Great Job the kiddos love him.

  • A

    Ana RomeroFeb 21, 2024 at 10:33 am

    Lovely article Katie. Sam is a treasure and if you know him, you know he can brighten your day.