From Humble Beginnings to Planning for Law School | April 2018
Newsletter April 2018
From Humble Beginnings to Planning for Law School
By: Belinda Bryce, Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) Director
Shakierah Smith grew up on the north-west side of the city of Rochester. A tall, self-conscious student, she loved going to school but she didn’t believe she could be academically successful. With daily inspiration from her father and encouragement from her grandmother, youth advocate and teachers, she decided to apply to college. During her senior year of high school at the School Without Walls, Shakierah was chosen to participate in the Taub Multimedia Journalism Academy held at RIT. Through that program and her participation in the Saunders College of Business Career Opportunities in Accounting program, she knew RIT was the right fit for her. “I had been on campus so much it began to feel like home, so when I was accepted, I knew RIT was truly the place for me!”
For her high school senior project, Shakierah became involved with Rochester Community Television and decided she wanted to go into broadcasting. She wanted to have her own talk show. When she was accepted to RIT’s HEOP program, she chose to major in communications. However, emboldened by memories from childhood when her sister experienced molestation, Shakierah dreamed of becoming an attorney and future judge. When she took a criminal justice class for one of her perspectives, she fell in love with the program and decided to double major.
“I would say a lot of my ability to persevere should be attributed to my father, who would literally text me positive and motivational messages everyday to uplift my spirit. I also prayed a lot, attended office hours religiously, developed relationships with my professors, completed assignments ahead of time, and study smarter, not harder.”
Shakierah continued to excel. Not surprisingly, she was accepted into RIT’s Honors Program. “[T]he Honors Program sent me multiple invitations to join as a late entry student. However, it was not until one of my professors, Dr. Keith Jenkins, mentioned me to the director and encouraged me to investigate the program that I decided to apply and ultimately join.” Through the Honors Program Shakierah conducted research in criminal justice and presented her work at the Undergraduate Research Symposium last summer. Her list of accolades is laudable:
Thomas C. Castellano Award for Outstanding Achievement in Criminal Justice
RIT Outstanding Undergraduate Scholar
RIT Criminal Justice Richard B. Lewis Award
College of Liberal Arts Kearse Undergraduate Writing Award
Center for Public Safety Initiatives Excellence in Research Award
Dean’s List all semesters
Currently, Shakierah is a BS/MS dual degree student who will be graduating with her BS degree this May and her MS degree in May of 2019. After that is law school and she sees herself as a licensed attorney practicing in the state of New York.
When asked who was a big influence on where she is today, she notes her HEOP counselor who always checked in and encouraged her to work hard so she could reach her goals. Her advice to incoming students: “Discover your passion and purpose so you can make the most out of your college experience and opportunities offered through RIT and HEOP. Also, believe in yourself and never feel like you are less than because of characteristics such as race or gender. Additionally, network, connect with your professors, take on research opportunities, try your best to do well in all of your classes, and make sure you take time out of your hectic schedule to breathe, relax and have fun.