Syntychia Kendrick-Samuel | Movers & Shakers 2016 – Innovators

It started with Mr. Crittenden at Freeport High School, NY. “He was the first African American librarian I had ever met, and that was a big deal. His presence meant that librarianship was an option for someone like me,” recalls Syntychia Kendrick-Samuel, now head of young adult services at Uniondale Public Library, just a few miles from her old high school.
Syntychia Kendrick-Samuel


Head of Young Adult Services, Librarian II, Uniondale Public Library, NY


MLS, Queens College, CUNY, 2004


“Educate yourself and strive for better through honest means.” She inherited that ethic from her parents, along with her Christian faith, and credits both with her success


@sobenyree (Twitter)

Photo by Audrey C. Tiernan Photography, Inc.

Empowerment Powerhouse

It started with Mr. Crittenden at Freeport High School, NY. “He was the first African American librarian I had ever met, and that was a big deal. His presence meant that librarianship was an option for someone like me,” recalls Syntychia Kendrick-Samuel, now head of young adult services at Uniondale Public Library, just a few miles from her old high school.

He wasn’t the only educator who put this teen advocate’s destiny in motion. The mantra of grad school professor Karen Smith, who worked with urban youth, was “By any means necessary.” That could mean, say, a hero sandwich for a good test score. “It’s an approach I include in my professional philosophy to this day,” says Kendrick-Samuel.

Then there was the Rev. Alfonso Wyatt. “I attended a gang violence prevention seminar where he was the keynote speaker,” says Kendrick-Samuel. “I learned that gangs recruit new members from sixth to eighth grade[rs]. That had a tremendous impact.” Perhaps, she concluded, joining the Bloods or the Latin Kings wouldn’t be so alluring if middle schoolers had the skills to rebuild a computer, dance with the Alvin Ailey Company, or create art with Coretta Scott King Award winner Javaka Steptoe.

All of those programs wound up being part of Kendrick-Samuel’s six-week Uniondale Empowerment Academy. The teens quickly bond, encouraging one another not to miss a session. The dean of the local middle school was shocked to see one student participating, since she had up until then only seen him in her office. “One year we gave Kindles to the graduates…by any means necessary, right?” says Kendrick-Samuel.

“I call myself a professional hustler!” says Kendrick-Samuel. “If I see a teen or parent around town, I encourage them to register.” Having the best program in the world doesn’t mean a thing if attendance is low. Aside from hustling to attract attendees, she’s also wrangled numerous grants since the academy began in 2010.

“Just as I saw myself in Mr. Crittenden, I hope patrons see themselves reflected in my professional example, especially teens of color.”

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Dominique Price

I had the pleasure of working with Syntychia as both a colleague at a public library in NY and as a co-presenter at the Long Island Library Conference. It was truly an honor to work beside this dynamic pioneer in the field of librarianship. Her commitment to the youth in the Uniondale community is truly inspirational. As a mentor and a friend, Syntychia's drive and determination have truly motivated me. Syntychia, congratulations for receiving this prestigious accolade!

Posted : Apr 08, 2016 06:05


Syntychia has definitely influenced the teen world in a wonderful way. Through her I became more involved in the community in junior friends and it continued throughout college and will continue in my proffesional journey. Congrats!

Posted : Apr 05, 2016 04:15

Kyle Simmons

After being a part of Jr. Friends while I was in high school, I've come to Syntychia for advice and help. After I graduated Howard University, she's been a great friend to me and she's also a great example to the kids in the community.Congrats on all your success Syntychia!

Posted : Apr 02, 2016 12:34

Ray Salim

A big part of success is when others have benefited because you have lived. Syntychia Kendrick-Samuel is a blessing to everybody who interact with her. Furthermore, my daughter and her friends just love her. We love you!

Posted : Mar 31, 2016 03:56

Dominique West

Syntychia was one of the first people I experienced when I was a former JR friends of the UPL and was an amazing guidance and teacher. Congrats on this and I am so happy you are receiving the recognition you deserve !

Posted : Mar 27, 2016 11:26

Marc Cubas

Syntychia is/always has been a major supporter of mine as an adolescent and now in adulthood. I am elated that she has finally received the recognition she deserves. Her passion in her work is clear by the impact and influence she makes on the young adults she works with. I am proud and honored to say I know such a wonderful and passionate person. Congratulations Syntychia!

Posted : Mar 26, 2016 11:09

Myrtle Montague

As a former member and president of the Jr. Friends of UPL I have been one of the people who has benefitted the most from Syntychia's effect on the library. She has introduced me to many different views and cultures and is a great role model. We are all very proud of her but not surprised. Congrats Syntychia!

Posted : Mar 26, 2016 03:32

Natalie Morgan

Syntychia is a great Librarian & asset to Uniondale Library & Community. She is a great example not just African American but for Librarian's worldwide. Reading this article motivates me more to reach for my goals because nothing is impossible. Having Syntychia here at Uniondale Library is truly a honor.

Posted : Mar 25, 2016 06:54

Lisa Crittenden

Syntychia, My Dad is so honored to have touched you in such a way! He found his work and being in Freeport very important. He wanted to make a difference in young people lives. Thank you for sharing how his passion and love for students impacted your live in such and inspiring and awesome way. He is proud of you!

Posted : Mar 22, 2016 02:03


I enjoyed reading the article about Syntychia. She is to be commended for her creative ideas and programs which benefit our youth. She is indeed a positive role model in the Uniondale Community.

Posted : Mar 20, 2016 08:28

S. Smith-Brown

Syn is the Librarian we all wish to be. She really is the gem of Uniondale. I wished that Board of Trustees in great communities acknowledged their African American professionals.

Posted : Mar 19, 2016 12:26

Ms. Perry

Syntichia Is a "Gem" of the Uniondale Community. Many Accolades!!

Posted : Mar 18, 2016 06:46

Aletta Seales

Teachers/Librarians impact the lives of their students for a lifetime. Congratulations to you, Syntychia.

Posted : Mar 18, 2016 04:03



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