An activist who wants to help support and empower women, Avery Smith stepped out of her comfort zone when she came to UConn – seizing opportunities at and around UConn Hartford, volunteering in her community, and founding and leading new student organizations at the School of Social Work. She wants to inspire others to overcome injustice and overcome their own personal challenges.

Why did you choose UConn?
I wanted a school that offered me many opportunities, such as internships, research and student involvement. Above all, I wanted to be part of a close-knit community. I was happy to have been accepted to UConn Hartford because it is in a small urban community. Hartford was the only UConn school that had my program, social work. I was delighted that the UConn program gave me valuable hands-on experience that will prepare me for entry-level employment, such as working one-on-one with clients.

I had the opportunity to work with young people struggling with behavioral and shyness problems, empowering them to engage in meditation and self-awareness activities. I was thrilled that the classes were smaller and that I had the opportunity to be an honors student at a regional campus. I admire the diversity on my campus, rubbing shoulders with first-generation students and students from minority backgrounds. I like the fact that I was able to learn from the perspective of my peers and what shaped their experiences. I wanted hands-on, one-on-one learning with teachers, which the BSW program provided. I learned to be independent and aware of all walks of life and their circumstances.

What is your specialization and why did you choose it?
Social work is my major. I chose social work because I always wanted to advocate for others when I had none. I also chose social work because of my experience. I am a first generation student and a learning disabled student who grew up on a low income and faced poverty during my childhood and college years. I had no one to listen to me or to be a lawyer. I want to be an activist for women’s empowerment. With my life experiences, I want to be able to help and inspire young girls and women who have experienced injustices, such as poverty, racism and abuse, to have a support system and overcome their challenges. It relates to my favorite poetry writer, Maya Angelou, when she says, “Still I Rise.”

What are your plans after graduation?
I’m considering taking a year off. I am considering enrolling in AmeriCorps VISTA or finding full-time employment with a nonprofit social work organization that works with women, children, and families. I plan to complete my Masters in Counseling, with a concentration in Social Work Art Therapy, in 2023. I am very interested in working with women and girls who experience injustice and helping them heal through art.

What activities did you participate in as a student?
I participated in the creation and the presidency of two clubs on campus: the Association of Social Work Students, which promotes a positive image of the social work profession, allows its members to identify the needs within of our communities and engages in community services; and the Empowered Women Collective, which is a group of diverse women who promote unity, leadership and sisterhood among women who face difficulties in society.

I also helped organize a survivor solidarity protest in Hartford, and my other club, of which I am president, the Empowered Women Collective, is having a clothing drive with the YWCA for survivor solidarity in Hartford. sexual assault. This collection helps women whose clothes have been taken for investigation to have spare clothes in the hospital. I participated in and organized a campus food drive for my local food pantry, Hands on Hartford. I also organized a social work panel in my club, which allowed other students to explore different paths in social work.

My other involvement at UConn Hartford was singing as a viola for Hus-keys Acapella. My favorite involvement at UConn is definitely getting involved in student activities and student judging.

What’s one thing that surprised you about UConn?
One thing that surprised me about UConn is how tightly knit the Hartford campus is. Everyone is friendly and kind and ready to help and support you. I love how the Hartford campus is in an urban city and the School of Social Work is beautifully tucked away, yet stands out.

Any advice for new freshmen?
Getting out of your comfort zone is a must. Join organizations and clubs. Find your true passion and never be afraid to be yourself and try something new in college. As college can get tough, students should prioritize their mental health and academic work by using on-campus resources to help with your academic work and general well-being. Keep advocating and pushing for your dreams. You don’t have to go to college on your own. You are never alone. Once you’ve learned to find your voice, keep advocating! College is not a race – you finish when you are comfortable and ready.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?
Dominique Courts, doctoral student at the School of Social Work – I have never had a young black teacher/professor with whom I identified so much. I’m not used to seeing black women do so well in my future profession.

She taught me a lot about myself, whether it was about putting myself forward or standing up for what is right in my community as a minority student. When I was going through personal things, she was always there to support me and push me as an individual and social worker. She inspired me to keep going through the bad times and cheering on the good ones. I loved her class and her various lectures and the different methods she taught. Having a black teacher is important to me because of the portrayal of other girls who look like me and who I can relate to. As a woman of color, having a professor of color made me feel like I could continue to achieve my goals and progress in my studies to one day get a doctorate.