Friday, May 16, 2014

Alisha Smith Named to 40 Under 40 Women to Watch in Connecticut @fairfieldu @writingproject

Ms. Alisha Smith, Artsy Girls Global, Inc.
The following is excerpted from the nomination letter sent to the Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund 2014 Awards. I am proud to say that Ms. Alisha Smith was chosen as an educator to look out for. The 40 Under 40 awards were given last night.

It is an honor to introduce Ms. Alisha Smith to your committee to be one of 40 Women for the Next 40 Years who is destined to continue the advocacy for the rights and opportunities of women in Connecticut. Colleagues at Fairfield University spoke highly of Alisha Smith’s intellectual and academic promise, a Tillinger Scholarship Award recipient, and introduced me to her when I first arrived in 2012. At the time, she earned a Masters degree in Teaching and Foundations and specialized in Curriculum and Instruction. With this knowledge, I contacted Alisha to possibly collaborate with the Connecticut Writing Project@Fairfield to compete for a National Writing Project 2012-2013 Supporting Effective Educator Development grant. She introduced me to school leaders, we met to establish a plan, and the rest is history. We received the grant to support literacy excellence for all teachers and provided workshops and program to align 9th-12th grade skills across all content areas. Everyone at Bassick High School: the students, teachers and administrators, make it known that Alisha Smith is an all-star. They see her as an advocate for women, youth, and teachers in the state of Connecticut. She’s definitely a woman to watch! At 34 years young, she’s only just begun her incredible impact.

Alisha Smith’s official title for the last 10+ years has been Cluster Liaison and Site Coordinator for the Yale and Bridgeport’s Gear Up Partnership. In the position, she plans, strategizes, reflects, and carries forth youth programs that build leadership, achievement, and academic success. She accomplishes this through passionately collaborating with teachers, young people, agencies, and political figures to create programs that exude integrity and poise.

Although Ms. Smith’s willingness to stand before others as a director and mover are plentiful, I highlight those of which I am most familiar. In addition to successfully attaining the grant for working with Bassick teachers under the expertise and guidance of Alisha, I offered an idea to host a citywide writing conference to celebrated the ideas, creativity, voice, and intelligence of young people throughout Bridgeport. I trusted Alisha’s relationships with many schools across Bridgeport and, as others before me have learned, Alisha was a woman of commitment. Together, we brainstormed the action it would take and, specifically, Alisha recruited 115+ middle and high school students for the conference. The Writing Our Lives-Bridgeport event was possible only because Alisha Smith is dedicated to excellence in Bridgeport. She is more than willing to move mountains that stubbornly stand still to make a difference in this world. The event, in fact, received positive press that included Aspiring Bridgeport Teen Writers Find Day of Inspiration and Full Day Writing Workshop for Bridgeport Students to Write Their Lives. She coordinated buses, surveyed students for literacy interests, followed-up with student reflections, helped recruit partners and presenters, and coached her staff to engage young writers for the day. Alisha’s hard work sealed the deal for me; she is the amazing professional others promised she’d be.

Alisha Smith is dedicated to the advocacy of urban, often marginalized, youth. She addresses school boards, confers with over 100 teachers who work with young people under her care, presents at conferences (with titles such as “Moving From STEM to STEAM: Integrating Arts into the STEM Curriculum”), maintains community partnerships with Upward Bound, Build On, United Ways and CWP@Fairfield, and also creates leadership institutes and programs. She is a powerhouse who unites people from many organizations so dreams are accomplished and work gets done. With such activism, Alisha stands with confidence and assuredness and I have come to think of her as the behind-the-scenes warrior who works tirelessly to close Connecticut’s inexcusable achievement gaps. She promotes the voices of those too often unheard in the state.

Alisha Smith is a mother, educator, and community leader who chooses to be a miraculous mentor and life-coach to the young people she serves. I wish to highlight, however, two examples. The first comes from a young man who arrived from Congo when he was a boy, and was sent to live with an aunt so he could flee turmoil of the region. The streets of Bridgeport, however, proved tough and by 9th grade he made poor choices: drugs, violence, and crime. Alisha Smith stepped in. Because she saw the potential, she began working with him until he stopped skipping school. She mentored him to see the importance of a work ethic. In his words,

Ms. Smith knew about my potential and the problems I faced in school, home, and outside of school. She sprinted into action by scaring away the older guys I hung out with, got me involved with academic tutors and mentors, and connected me to positive people who went out of their way to make sure my needs were met.

Similarly, a young woman from Pakistan, has benefited from Alisha Smith’s commitment to youth. Alisha Smith has encouraged her leadership in the United States. Anmol explains,

I know I can do anything I set my mind to in America and that being a leader is a matter of me getting involved with my community. I learned this from Ms. Smith. She encouraged me to work harder, state my opinion, and to fight for what I believe in. It is difficult at times for a young Muslim woman to step into such a role, but Ms. Smith gave me confidence to do so.

These insights offer two glimpses of what hundreds have to say about this stellar human being. Smith. Her investment in youth deserves the recognition of CWEALF.

Relationship to CWEALF
Alisha Smith is an activist, locally and globally, who passionately dedicates her vision of seeing young girls, and boys, with opportunities for leadership and empowerment. The advocacy word she does is not only important to Connecticut, but has made a difference in eight other countries, as well, including Malawi and Panama. Through global outreach, Alisha has mentored young people to fight for issues that matter to them. More specifically, she has developed a research-based organization called Artsy Girls Global, Inc. that blends social justice for ethnic-minority girls in all cultures through the power impact of the arts. Her strong background with performance and voice is at the heart of this work. She promotes artistry and creativity with young women are stepping into adulthood and assists them to live with a purpose and a cause.

In everything Alisha Smith accomplishes, communities stand at the forefront. She recognizes that for each and every child to be successful, networks of support must be established. She unifies local, state, and international communities with the power to incite change.

Alisha Smith is definitely a Woman for the Next 40 Years in Connecticut. She makes a difference at the same time she maintains professional excellence for herself. Clearly, she is a distinguished woman to know.  Please contact me if I can be of further assistance.


Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall
Direcotr, CWP-Fairfield, Fairfield University

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