Born in Cleveland but raised in Alabama, she moved back to Cleveland four years ago to get a fresh start and be nearer to family. Smith, who turns 35 today, is in her second semester at Cleveland State Community College working on her second associate’s degree.
Smith said she attended Snead State Community College in Boaz, Ala., after she finished high school. While she did complete an associate of science degree there, her studies were not related to any particular field.
Her fresh start in Cleveland resulted in her deciding to pursue a career in nursing. She is working on earning an associate’s of arts and science in nursing.
Working toward a job in the medical field seemed a natural fit, because she was used to hearing stories of her father’s work as an emergency medical technician.
“I’ve always felt like a nurturing type of person,” Smith said. She also handles herself well around things like blood.
After she graduates in May of 2015, her goal is to become a pediatric nurse in a hospital setting, perhaps even working with pediatric oncology — children battling cancer.
Smith said it could be really sad to see children fighting against cancer; however, she has known of some children who have handled their treatments well and been “absolutely inspirational.”
She said she will likely stay in the Cleveland and Chattanooga area for the first part of her nursing career, but a long-term goal is to eventually move to New York City to work.
Until then, she is working on doing well in her classes while also devoting time to her family and getting involved with activities on campus.
Smith attends school full-time and works part-time. She also cares for her mother who has had to deal with some health issues, her husband who has had health issues of his own and her two children, who are currently 12 and 13. She is also involved with Cleveland State’s Chamber Choir, is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and is an officer in the Student Nurses’ Association.
“It keeps me from being bored — that’s for sure,” Smith said. “It is hard, but it’s strengthening me. It’s changed me as a person.”
She described her biggest daily challenge as finding the time to study, which has required sacrifices of both time and of money she said she could be making if her schedule allowed her to work full-time.
The nursing classes at Cleveland State are difficult “in a good way,” Smith said. While she really has to stay on top of her studies each night, she said she knows it will all be worth it when she is sitting by a patient’s bedside and trying to help that patient and family members understand doctors’ instructions.
“That is where it counts,” Smith said.
Her goal is to do such a good job in her career that people will be impressed by the education she received in college. She said she is determined to graduate on time.
Smith said she has coped with her hectic college student lifestyle by creating a “support system” around her. She often studies in groups with other students and seeks help from her professors.
The experience of studying in college today is different than it was when she first graduated from high school and went to college. Unlike how things were then, she said most of her assignments require doing research and taking tests on computers.
While there are many people who have dream careers, some might hesitate to pursue a college education because they do not think they will be able to succeed. Smith said she is proof that anyone can attend and do well in college.
“Go for it,” Smith said. “There’s only one person holding you back, and it’s you. You have a dream? Just go and do it.”