Danielle Smith, a recent graduate from Prairie View A&M University, dreams of transforming lives of children by improving the child welfare system. After being adopted at the age of 4 through Arms Wide Adoption Services (then Spaulding for Children), she found herself with an adoptive family who loved her unconditionally and pushed her to be the best version of herself. Her internal strength and family support sets her up to use her voice for change to improve outcomes for kids in foster care.
Strength from Family
Mr. and Mrs. Smith welcomed Danielle with open arms, and they continued to show up for her in every way throughout her youth. “My family allowed me, my stubborn self, and I to be myself and grow into the strong woman I am today,” Danielle said. “When I was first adopted, I gave them a lot of pushbacks, but they never gave up on me. I am so thankful for them for adopting me and giving me the love, care, and support that I needed and deserved.
“It takes two very special people to be parents and they are indeed that.”
The Smith family’s strength is rooted in faith. Danielle’s parents are pastors, and one of their favorite pastimes is visiting different churches and bonding spiritually. Her parents and sister gave her the grounding to stay strong in adversity. As Danielle says,
“God only gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers.”
Shining at Prairie View A&M
In May 2021, Danielle received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Legal Studies from Prairie View A&M University. She was active as a leader on campus: as the Student Government Association Freshman Class President, she led grassroots efforts to register her peers to vote. Prairie View A&M gave her the skills she needed to succeed not only in the classroom, but in life. “By the second semester of my junior year,” Danielle recalls, “I was ready to rule the world.”
She is living proof that persistence and optimism come from the inside. “I am my biggest critic, and I really want to be successful as bad as I want to breathe,” Danielle shares. “Often, we forget how powerful our negative thoughts can be, so I began to only speak and think positively. I kept myself going, because I constantly reminded myself of how I was almost at the finish line.” Danielle has passed this finish line with flying colors, and with her bright future ahead, it is only one of many races she will win.
Bright Future Ahead: A Voice for Change
On the horizon, Danielle will take the LSAT and apply for Law School. Though the road is daunting, her faith keeps her strong. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and the LSAT will not defeat me,” Danielle says.
“I’ve come so far in life and I will go after my dream no matter what.”
Danielle will be a strong voice for change in child welfare because she deeply understands the system. “There is an overrepresentation of minorities in foster care due to many contributing factors like laws, family and parent disparities, and racism,” Danielle shares. She knows that most people don’t understand how significant this issue is, and she intends to use her voice to affect change.
Calling All Students: Become Policy Makers
Youth who have been in the foster care system are eligible for a Tuition and Fee Waiver from select universities. Danielle encourages all foster and adopted youth to “utilize your Tuition and Fee Waiver and put yourself one step closer to being a policy maker. Even if you were not in the [foster care] system, find a way to make a difference.
“Because the kids need you… to advocate to make change in the child welfare system!”