Sedona Smith shows how passion can lead to success

Jazmine Grisby, Phoenix Staff Writer

Sedona Smith, a senior at GSU, recently was named a Lincoln Laureate for 2021, an honor that recognizes leadership and service in the pursuit of betterment of humanity and overall excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities.  

 Sedona’s passions are golf, social work, and making the world a better place, and she lives those passions as a social work major, a member of the women’s golf team, and by contributing to campus since she arrived in the fall of 2020. She has served as a reporter for the Phoenix, the Transfer Student Representative for Student Senate, a Writing Fellow for the Social Work Department, and she has worked in the Public Relations Office for the Social Work Organization.  

Off campus, Sedona does volunteer work as a program manager for a community service organization, at Neat Repeats, which is a crisis center that donates its proceeds to a domestic violence shelter, and tutors for elementary and high schools. 

Like many students here at GSU, Sedona is not from the area; she is from Freeport, Illinois. She talks of how she had to adjust to the change: “It’s been an adjustment being here, but it’s been really good, because being on the golf team has really helped with the adjustment and just participating on campus and working has really helped.” 

Sedona said her parents pushed her academically as she was growing up. She said she was lucky to have a support system made up of not only her parents but also high-school teachers. 

 “I feel like I’ve always had people along the way that planned out my strengths and celebrated my successes with me and I feel like that just made such a difference,” she said. 

One of those teachers was her golf coach who she says helped build her confidence in the sport. Being already familiar with it through the lessons her mom would send her to in the summer, she decided to join the team her freshman year of high-school, which she says was the time when she lacked confidence the most. 

“I really was not a confident person my freshman year of high-school,” she recalled. “I really struggled with a lot, like self-identity and just deciding to do this thing that I wasn’t comfortable with, and deciding that it was OK to not be super successful at it, but just to do it out of enjoyment helped me grow a lot, and my coach helped by continuing to work with me.” 

With the motivation of her coach, she was able to make it to the State tournament by her senior year. “It was just really good to have that person consistently with me through those periods of growth,” she said. 

Sedona’s passion for her career in social work also benefited from a motivator – her high school’s librarian, who encouraged her.  

“I felt like she could have been a social worker herself,” Sedona said. “Our school didn’t have a social worker, and so many people went to her knowing she was that person who would just listen.” 

She also talks about being motivated by her experience working at an elementary school as a tutor, where she’s able to use her skills as a bilingual worker. 

“It was a lot of Latino kids at that school and the social worker there didn’t speak Spanish and they didn’t have tutors that spoke it either,” Sedona recalled. “So you end up running into these huge deficits in terms of emotional health and academic success just because you don’t speak English and that really affected me.” 

That impact, she says, heightened her passion to help others.  

Like many on campus, Sedona finds herself at times stuck with the challenge of trying to find that balance among work, life, and school now that she’s on her own.  

“It’s been a challenge,” she said. “I’ve always felt like academics come pretty easy to me, but now it’s like I’m balancing laundry, grocery shopping, and cooking on top of all those other responsibilities.” 

She also talks about the need to maintain your mental health, which is one of the certificates she holds for first aid for youth. Knowing how hard it is being a student and the toll it can take on the mental side, she states some things she does to stay on top of hers. 

“I want my self-care to be like just going to bed, but you just can’t. So, honestly just listening to music and just driving around for a little just to get out and get fresh air or going for a walk are things that really help me personally. And I think that self-talk is so important too.” 

After graduation in the spring, Sedona plans to join the Peace Corps, which is a federal program whose workers provide economic and social assistance in numerous countries around the world.  

Sedona’s passion for the betterment of humanity is what helps her to stay motivated and on her path to success. She believes anybody can flourish with the right amount of passion and dedication. 

“If you’re really passionate about something, you’re gonna dedicate yourself to it and you’re going to be successful,” she said. “You don’t have to be smart to be good at school or good at your career, as long as you work hard at it you can be successful.”.