"She really enjoyed watching the news, even as a little girl," Classie Jo West said.
"She grew up as an only child and paid attention to all of my conversations," she said.
That commitment is paying off for the Augusta native.
Ms. Samuels is visiting the Volta region of Ghana and will stay in west Africa until the first week of March while volunteering with a program called Cross-Cultural Solutions.
Since graduating from Glenn Hills High School and Clark Atlanta University, Ms. Samuels has enjoyed a 13-year career as a journalist. She works as a senior correspondent with Newsweek magazine in Los Angeles.
On the night before flying to Africa last week, Ms. Samuels discussed by telephone her cross-continental trip -- her second to Africa in two years.
In 2006, she accompanied Oprah Winfrey and reported on the TV mogul's mission to provide a new school for South African girls.
"After making that trip, it just seemed like I could do so much more," said Ms. Samuels, who describes her latest trip as a perfect blend of tourism and volunteerism.
Cross-Cultural Solutions is available to the public and is growing in popularity, she said.
"While you're visiting there, you want to do so much more than visit," she said. "There's so much poverty and the kids want to learn. The mission is to provide assistance to children who have been orphaned by parents who are victims of the AIDS epidemic there.
"The people are either very young or very old," she said, adding the illness has devastated a generation of people in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
As a journalist, Ms. Samuels has interviewed several internationally known people, including Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, and Barack and Michelle Obama.
She describes her career as fulfilling.
"I don't consider myself a role-model, but I would hope that I am encouraging," she said. "Even if you're not a straight-A student, they should realize there's always a chance."
Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BACKGROUND: Augusta native, graduated from Glenn Hills High School and Clark Atlanta University
JOB: Senior correspondent for Newsweek magazine
- Author of Off The Record, Harper Collins Publishing, 2006
- According to her mother, Classie Jo West, Ms. Samuels will be featured on the PBS network broadcast of Legacy: Being Black in America, which will air locally in April.