“How can we expect to raise a generation of students who care enough to improve their communities and to defend their civil liberties, if we neglect to teach them…how extraordinary their nation's history is?”
Kelly Smith graduated summa cum laude in spring 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Social Science Education.
A self-professed advocate for Social Science Education, Kelly explains her reasons, which she shares with our first president, George Washington. “The only way for our nation to thrive is to equip our youth with an understanding of the society in which they are to inherit. How can we expect to raise a generation of students who care enough to improve their communities and to defend their civil liberties, if we neglect to teach them why their communities matter, how extraordinary their nation’s history is, and why their rights are important.”
Kelly didn’t always want to be a teacher, but as she grew older, she realized how important good teaching is. “I had four teachers in high school who were extremely intelligent. They could have done a million other things that would have been financially rewarding, but they chose to teach, and because of them I developed the utmost respect for the profession.”
Community service is also high on her list as a means of educating yourself about your fellow citizens. During her college career, Kelly served as a resident assistant in Ragans Hall, as a member of the Student Alumni Leadership Council, and as policy chair for the Union Board. She volunteered for the Florida Democratic Party and Leon County Schools, but the experience she found “most influential” was volunteering for the Homeless Shelter. She says, “I learned how much mental illness plays a direct role in the likelihood of becoming homeless; how few resources exist to help people who get into these situations, especially when they are unsure how to ask for or seek out help; and most importantly, I learned that these are people with families, lives, and aspirations.”
Through FSU’s International Programs, Kelly spent a full summer studying in London and traveling through Europe. Living in other cultures, she now believes, is “the most rewarding experience because it opens your mind to lifestyles different than your own, and it allows you to appreciate the differences while recognizing the commonality of the human experience—love for our families and friends and pride in our heritage.”
She is now teaching middle school in Philadelphia for Teach for America, an organization that seeks to eliminate inequality in education. “We are brought up with this idea that if you are born in America, you have every opportunity to be successful, but too often your zip code defines your future. Children do not ask to be born into unfortunate circumstances, so it is our responsibility to make sure every child is valued and has a chance to be what he/she wants to be.”