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With high hopes of developing familial and school partnerships to end preventative Youth Risk Behavior, Sarah Smith is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Florida in Family, Youth and Community Sciences. Smith currently works on research projects dedicated to combating cyberbullying and adolescent dating violence. Relating heavily to her present work, she helped develop a freshman mentoring program, called the Peer Network Program in her junior year for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), in the College of Education and Human Sciences – her alma mater. While at UNL, Smith also worked alongside and volunteered with Lincoln youth in other various mentoring programs and even established an after-school nutrition club to promote healthier lifestyles.
In 2015, Smith was a GE-Reagan Scholarship recipient. Her journey with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute (RRPFI) has provided her with a plethora of opportunities to network with professionals and leaders in several fields. As the second great phase of her journey with President Reagan’s legacy, Smith was invited to attend the Leadership and the American Presidency program in 2018 with the RRPFI on a partial scholarship. Her profound involvement in RRPFI programs has allotted her the opportunity to exercise critical thinking skills, which has come to her aid in solving real-world problems and collaborating with families, students and professionals alike.
Although she’s now soaking up the Florida sun, Smith maintains her ties with the Nebraskan community by serving as the President-elect for the Nebraska Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. Smith volunteers as a speech team coach at Creighton Community High School, where she graduated from in 2015. It brings her great joy to serve the local youth she can so easily relate to whenever she makes a pilgrimage to Nebraska, which is where she hopes to eventually return so as to apply her learned skills and experiences in either the Education or Human Services fields.
What are you doing to grow as a leader?
I am learning to try new things, scary, new things. I moved to Florida from Nebraska in 2018 for graduate school and had to make a lot of adjustments that I know have made me a better, more empathetic leader. Before moving, I was trying new things, but few of them really challenged me – some even made me nervous. I am most comfortable taking on unfamiliar tasks, which will ultimately allow me to expand a skill set needed to help others.
Name one thing you wish you could have done differently and why.
There have been multiple times where I have reflected on something and wished I had entered a situation with more confidence. I really feel I could have gotten more out of different opportunities if I had been confident I possessed the skills and knowledge to lead a project or group. Rather, my occasional lack of confidence held me back from presenting valuable ideas or volunteering for unique leadership roles.
When did something start out badly for you, but end greatly?
My freshman year of high school I tried out for the school's competitive dance team. I didn't make it, and I seriously considered quitting altogether . The coach spoke to and encouraged me. Coach said if I worked hard, I could get there. In my senior year, I served as co-captain of the team with one of my best friends. Dance ended up being a highlight in my high school career and I am so grateful I didn't let that one bump, be my stop sign. Sometimes our failures are just one step along the path to success.
If you could do it all over again, would you change anything? If not why, and if so, what would you change?
I have always said that I wouldn't change anything. I have definitely made mistakes that I sometimes wish would have gone differently, but at the end of the day, those rough experiences have made me wiser. Every positive and negative experience shapes who we are as individuals – our mistakes can provide lessons to others.
What “old person” things do you do?
Oh, there are so many! I am a morning person, I drink black coffee and I love to watch game shows and movies/TV shows from decades ago. I much prefer to read print newspapers, and I even send cards and letters through the post.