They’re not always in the news. Or at least, they’re not anymore.
There are the forgotten victims of earthquakes in Haiti or tsunamis on the Indian Ocean, still waiting for relief years after news headlines – and the financial donations they bring – have shifted elsewhere.
There are the women drifting out of abusive relationships, uncertain where to go or who to speak with, how to get a job or even what a workplace looks like.
And there was the girl who had been swept into the United States on a fake passport when she was 4 years old. Her parents were now incarcerated. She was about to turn 18. At that point, the procedures for acquiring citizenship would become drastically more difficult.
This is where Samantha Cucolo steps in. As counsel for Viacom’s Kids & Family Business and Legal Affairs, she applies her legal training and business experience to help the helpless.
“To be able to use the skills we all have here, a lot of people need those skills, so it’s great to be able to go out and do that,” Samantha says. “I love working with women and children, but especially groups that don’t normally get help. Not everyone gets fair legal representation or can come into a place like this and see how we all work.”
A Viacommunity event done last year in conjunction with the HERE employee resource group underscored this point: Samantha sat down with a woman brought in by Safe Horizon, the largest nonprofit victim services agency in the United States. Her personal story was rough and moving. The workplace intimidated her. Samantha listened. She gave her tips on building her resume and interviewing.
The interaction didn’t end that day – the woman sent letters afterward thanking Samantha and her colleagues, detailing how her experience at Viacom had helped her build the confidence she would need to re-enter the workplace. Inspired by this experience, Viacommunity and Viacom’s employee resource group for women followed up with clothing drives to collect business wear for abused women to interview in.
Outside of Viacom, Samantha is no less generous with her time and experience. She’s spent three years fundraising for the Helping Hearts Council of the Happy Hearts Fund, which builds schools in the aforementioned forgotten disaster zones around the world. Samantha focuses on fundraising, so that these mostly poor areas can build safe, resilient buildings in place of the rickety ones that have been destroyed.
She built the legal expertise to help others navigate these tangled worlds throughout her time at St. John’s University Law School, with real-world experience assisting children around New York City who were placed in foster care or otherwise navigating the court system. That child here illegally through no choice of her own, with the imprisoned parents, who was about to turn 18? “That was one of the best experiences, because we did it,” Samantha said. “She got her green card.”
This functioned both as excellent real-world legal prep and a chance to give back in a tangible way, but it was not Samantha’s first experience with volunteering. Her mother inspired her with the spirit of giving in childhood, when she would take Samantha to help out at the Special Olympics.
“I love working with women and children, but especially groups that don’t normally get help. Not everyone gets fair legal representation or can come into a place like this and see how we all work.”
Even as she weaves Viacommunity events into her workday, filling food boxes for the needy, writing letters to soldiers, or giving legal advice to small arts groups, Samantha seeks out ways to expand her impact. She’s heavily involved in creating a Viacom pro bono program to assist Her Justice – an organization dedicated to helping impoverished and abused women – in conjunction with the Shearman & Sterling law firm.
“We all get caught up with work, but this has always been something I’ve made an effort to fit into my schedule,” Samantha says. “I think we all have a responsibility to be generous with our time, be generous with ourselves and help others to the extent that we can. It seems like a natural thing that everyone should do at some point if they are able. It’s one of the things I like best about Viacom. I’m very thankful that the company gives us all these opportunities.”