Ms. Muriel Smith is our Program Director with a fierce passion for education. When she enters a room, she lights up the room with joy, radiating positivity through her echoing laugh. Her desire to uplift her community is contagious. In her role as our Program Director, she is charting the future of Student U to ensure students have more opportunities than they do today. Her journey has always been centered in how can she use her passion to make something better with the community she lives in using the power of education.
At the time of the interview below, she discussed her desire to create more opportunities for our students and lean into their capacity for academic excellence. As we have all had to adapt to this uncertain time of the COVID-19 outbreak, Muriel has put her innovative skills and pursuit of excellence to the test. She has been working tirelessly alongside her team to develop an online plan to support our students, utilizing our part-time and full-time staff effectively.
As a child of first-generation college students, she feels personally tied to the work she does here at Student U. She invests in providing excellent services to our students so that they are fought for and feel cared for. She believes it is necessary to push our students and hold them to high expectations so that they too can attend college.
Her own experience as a middle school student shapes how she chooses to carry out this work. As a middle school student, she struggled to find herself, and that often resulted in acting out in class or disengaging from school. This difficult period in her life is one reason why she believes she is called to support students and families during their time in middle school through college.
“If teachers had taken a minute to check in with me or call home to let my mom know what was going on, it might have changed things.”
Now she leads Student U to be a connection point between schools and families, holding students to their own personal development. One of Muriel’s favorite mantras is: “Tell people who they are becoming, not who they were.” She firmly believes that in middle school and high school, teachers are experiencing students at a very unique age, and it is their role to help students see their future and how to get there.
Now more than ever it is critical we support our students and families as schools shut down. Student U will continue walking with our families as they discover their future best selves. Learn more about how Muriel and our program team are supporting our families during this unprecedented crisis. https://studentudurham.org/online-programming/