Goodnight Spotlight: Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith ’19 is the type of enthusiastic and passionate teacher you want in your child’s classroom.

Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Lauren Smith ’19: I grew up only about 15 minutes from NC State in Cary. We were raised to love the Wolfpack and have been going to football and basketball games for as long as I can remember. I have one brother, Ross, who graduated from East Carolina University, received his masters at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and is currently in law school at the University of Kansas. He is getting married next May so I’m excited to be gaining a sister as well! While his passions lie in history and law, I have always been drawn to education. I am an elementary education major and I can honestly say that I look forward to going to class every day and learning more about how to better connect with students. I have always loved working with kids through a program at my high school, special needs cheerleading and with the YMCA. Majoring in education was an extremely easy choice for me. I’m driven because I can see the impact I have on their lives and have loved watching my kids grow up over the years!

If you had to summarize your personality in one sentence, what would it say?

I would say that I am extremely driven and goal-oriented, but not at the expense of making meaningful relationships along the way.

How would you describe your life as an NC State student?

At NC State my life is extremely busy, but I would not want it any other way. I have tried a little bit of everything from club sports to Fraternity and Sorority Life and everything in between. When I came to college I really wanted to try new things, so I joined anything and everything from club sports to religious organizations. I found myself completely overwhelmed by the number of events I had each week. Now my activities are more focused around my interests and passions. In my sorority, I am going to be volunteering at the Frankie Lemmon School and Developmental Center: a school for children ages 3-5 with and without disabilities. I am also a part of the International Honor Society in Education, Kappa Delta Pi. Now that I have less on my plate, I am more able to spend time truly getting to know people that I otherwise would not have the chance to meet. In my free time, I love finding all of the unique places to eat in Raleigh like the Player’s Retreat and Raleigh Times. My friends and I also like to go on walks, so it is fun for us to find new places around campus that we never knew existed, especially since all of our classes are on East Campus as education majors. Whenever I feel stressed I just go outside and I will instantly feel better, so I’m thankful to have such a beautiful school.

Is there a particular accomplishment you’ve made at NC State that fills you with pride?

This past semester I was able to get into the classroom for the first time in a kindergarten classroom about five minutes from my house in Cary. I was only observing, but I was still able to talk to some of the students, get a feel for the school, and what it would be like to organize and run a classroom full of five-year olds. It was nice to be in Cary as well because there were children there that had been campers at the summer camp I have worked at for the past five years and many of them recognized me. Fast forward to this summer where I was working in the Youth Office of the Taylor Family YMCA, where hundreds of kids were walking through the doors on a Monday morning eager for camp to start. All of a sudden I had a small child running to the other side of the desk to hug me, and I saw it was a student from the classroom I had been observing. In that moment I realized that while I had maybe only helped this student one time over the course of the semester and had only said a few words, I still had an impact great enough that seeing me put a smile on their face. I think of all the things I have accomplished at NC State the one that truly fills me with pride is the impact I have made already, and will make in the classroom.

I honestly had always imagined myself going to a smaller college, so NC State, with such a large student population, was intimidating to me at first. The Goodnight Scholars program honestly has provided me with a much smaller community that I feel truly comfortable in.

What is one experience you need to have at NC State before you graduate?

At NC State, there is one thing that unites the student body more than anything regardless of major, hometown, or interests: a shared hatred for that other school called UNC in Chapel Hill. Growing up as a Wolfpack fan has never been easy and I have experienced my fair share of heartbreak when it comes to sports. Before I graduate, the one thing I want to see is the entire student body come together to witness a major upset in basketball that no one will ever forget. Beating UNC at home during a great season, rushing the court and later Hillsborough Street is an experience I hope to have before I graduate because I know it would be something I would never forget. I know that this is something I have little control over, but you will catch me at every home football and basketball game until it happens because I refuse to miss a moment like that. A girl can dream!

Tell us about your time in the Goodnight Scholars Program.

I honestly had always imagined myself going to a smaller college, so NC State was intimidating to me at first. The Goodnight Scholars Program honestly has provided me with a much smaller community that I feel truly comfortable in. I was a mentor last year, and am looking forward to having that opportunity again this upcoming fall semester. Mentoring has allowed me to learn a lot about organizations that I would not have explored otherwise, and gave me the chance to meet scholars in the younger classes. This year I am also a part of the LEGO Brick Build committee, so I am excited to help plan one of the Goodnight Scholars’ largest events. I love how the Goodnight Scholars Program allows me to have the freedom to explore my interests, and I feel supported regardless of what path I decide is best for me. There have been times when I really needed to lean on the staff of this Program, and I felt I could be transparent when I needed help without judgement.

Any unforgettable moments from your time in the Goodnight Scholars community thus far?

Being a mentor has been my most rewarding and memorable experience thus far in the Goodnight Scholars Program. I really enjoyed getting to know my two mentees personally and sharing my experiences with them. I think mentoring someone just one year younger than me was a unique opportunity. I found myself learning from them countless times. We toured campus before classes started and I was able to really share my love for NC State. I am very thankful for the leadership opportunities available within the Program because they allow you to use your strengths to make improvements and collaborate with the most diverse group of people I have ever been a part of. We all come from very diverse backgrounds, so it was interesting to hear what some mentors were doing with their mentees and take note of great ideas. I am excited to be a mentor again this year to make another memory!

What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?

Being a Goodnight Scholar allows you to reach your fullest potential and pay it forward in a way that I had never imagined I could. You have a passion for the world and making a difference. Through this Program, I have found what I am most passionate about and has provided me with opportunities to further develop those interests. I feel as though someone believes I have potential and they have invested in me, so it is up to me to use that investment wisely to make an impact on the community here at NC State and beyond.

Where do you picture yourself after graduation?

I cannot imagine myself anywhere but in a classroom after graduation! I hope to be teaching first grade in Raleigh or Cary, but would take any grade if I loved the school. Eventually I would be more open to relocating, but I want to get my feet wet where I know I am comfortable right at home. Through working at the YMCA the past five years, and with a cheerleading team for those with special needs, I have also grown to have a passion for special education. I could easily picture myself in an inclusive classroom setting where I would teach children with and without disabilities. While I am becoming a teacher because I love to learn and teaching the basics is very important, I also want to teach my students values that they will carry with them beyond the classroom. If you think about how much time students spend in school every year, educators have the power to make a huge difference in the way that children see the world. I want to teach acceptance, how to think from another person’s perspective, and how to politely disagree with a different opinion. An inclusive classroom would allow me to teach those values in an incredible way that I believe benefits both the typically-developing student and the student with disabilities. Thinking about graduation is both exciting and intimidating but I know that as long as I am enjoying what I am doing, everything else will fall into place.

Photography credit: Jason Perry/Goodnight Scholars Program