Stacey Smith: Survivor, Social Worker, Brandman Graduate
A rainy morning gave way to bright skies for Brandman University’s 2019 Southern Commencement. Students from 10 campuses participated in two ceremonies. The late afternoon ceremony for the School of Arts and Sciences and the Marybelle and S. Paul Musco School of Nursing and Health Professions celebrated 402 graduates, including Stacey Smith, a single mother of four from Victorville, is the undergraduate student speaker who shared her journey to a bachelor of arts in social work. Her work with domestic abuse survivors represents personal and professional growth as she sought her degree to better support her family.
Here are the remarks she shared with her fellow graduates:
Who said it wasn’t going to be easy? Your professors? Your parents? Your mentors? Your haters?
T.D. Jakes, a famous pastor, once said, “The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning you go to school.”
In life, we can be our biggest critics within the process of self-mastery. We don’t appreciate our lowest moments of life, but we highlight our achievements, goals, and high moments. The weakest moments are what strengthens us as humans, to find a way out, a purpose or a moment to shine. Brandman University was my moment and my purpose in life to expand, to show growth, to show patience, to be dependable, and to save lives.
Being a single mother, the question stuck with me throughout school, “Who said it wasn’t going to be easy?”
Every day it was struggle raising four kids, providing a living on a minimum wage job, paying rent and paying for school tuition. I thought this was the hard part, but boom! Here comes the internship, a requirement for graduation. I was placed at a domestic violence shelter for battered men and women with children who could receive help and resources through court order classes, and self-help groups to get their children back from Child Protective Services. I was now dealing with something personal and hurtful from my past domestic violence, and triggers from my past marriage. I was terrified hearing all these stories that have once been me. I began to see I too was a little messed up myself. When I accepted who I was, not a just victim, but I am a survivor.
That day my supervisor helped me deal with a pain I never thought would stop hurting. This agency taught me what it was like to have a healthy relationship with friends and family, also to developed boundaries I never knew I had rights to do so. Mrs. Anita, my supervisor, helped me bloom from this little rose petal to a dozen roses. This learning experience inspired me, seeing people walk into a scary place for the first time, with their heads down low, completing their classes. Clients left the agency with confidence, with a voice and their head up high.
Life can make you feel very high at times, and other times, it can beat you up. People who go through domestic violence sometimes are re-victimized from not healing from past unhealthy relationships, bring baggage into new relationships and not obtaining the proper treatment and intervention approaches for coping strategies throughout life. You should never view challenges as a disadvantage; it’s important for you Class of 2019. To understand your fears of facing adversity and overcoming its challenges are your biggest advantages in life. And I know this because Brandman University gave me the best experiences to appreciate my lowest moments of life.
It started with my mother: thank you for watching my children for long hours to get homework done, to having a babysitter to complete my 400 hours at my internship. To Brandman for nominating me for a school scholarship through Alaska Credit Union for academics. When I didn’t know if I could afford my tuition, which was my last semester to graduate, because of the funding, I was able to pay for my last semester of school.
To be able to stand here, now in front of you, to be able to keep a 3.8 GPA in my social work courses, to getting three awards at the School Board Appreciation Day Brunch right beside so many powerful educators in San Bernardino County, to doing seminars with the communities advocating, “What are healthy relationships?” Little old me, who now is somebody: a facilitator, a leader, educator and now a social worker.
We all may not be ill-equipped when it comes to life lessons and disappointments, but Brandman, you have provided the right tools to help myself continue on with a successful journey in my life, by helping children, families, and individuals with multiple trauma-based intervention approaches. I have learned so much with one of the best social work programs you provided. Thank you for this opportunity and the support that I am able to carry on and help others like me that can say, “Who said it wouldn’t be easy?”
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