Rep. Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: From Heroin to Hope

October 9, 2020

Dusty Johnson 

We all know 2020 has been a year filled with adversity. While the majority of this year has been tough for most, it’s not been all bad. I was reminded of the good still happening in this world last week when I overheard my wife talking about the story of Mitchell resident, Samantha Schaefer.

For years, Samantha was addicted to drugs and spent time in and out of jail. During her last stint in jail, she was interviewed by Detective Joel Reinesch. Samantha was withdrawing from meth and heroin, hadn’t showered in days, and frankly didn’t care much to talk to the detective. All she wanted from him was a cigarette.

She never got that cigarette. Instead, she found Jesus in jail and never looked back – she got a new life. Samantha told herself when she got out of jail, she would focus on giving back to the community that helped her sober up and get her life on track.

At thirty-five years old, newly sober, and fresh out of jail, Samantha stepped foot in a classroom. She received an associate degree in human services, but quickly decided she wanted to take her education to the next level. She enrolled at Dakota Wesleyan University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Would you believe me if I told you on her first day she was assigned an advisor and that advisor turned out to be none other than the detective that processed her jail paper work years prior? Samantha said both her and Detective Reinesch felt awkward at first. She credits God’s grace and ability to change hearts and minds for where their friendship is today.

When I asked Detective Reinesch what he thought about her story, he responded with this:

“We all have either been personally touched by addiction or have known someone or a family that has. As a police officer, I saw it daily and saw how debilitating it can be on the individual, but especially their family as well. I’m in awe of Sam’s journey and the strength she has shown through all of this and continues to show today. The pride you could see in her eyes, on her face and in her voice when she received her diploma from Dakota Wesleyan was immeasurable.

“Addicts fight that addiction every single day. She did it as a single mother to two, working to pay the bills to provide for them on top of attending college full-time with students half her age. She had every reason to throw in the towel and give in. Instead, she showed up every single day, turned in every single assignment and never once offered excuses when things got hard or uncomfortable and finished as an Honor Graduate. I saw Sam at her lowest of lows and am incredibly blessed to see her at the best of her best.”

Samantha walked across the graduation stage this year – and Detective Reinesch presented her with her academic hood. She credits him for playing a significant role in her development and success at DWU.

Like Detective Reinesch said, her belief and determination are a blueprint forward for all of us. I hope her story reminds you good things are happening, even in 2020.