January 29th, 2013

In 2013, the Alabama Poverty Project will continue to highlight individuals in the Alabama Possible movement whose work affects change in the dynamics of poverty in our state. Our January spotlight features Blueprints College Access Initiative Mentor, Ariel Smith, a sophomore in our higher education partner UAB’s Global and Community Leadership (GCL) Honors Program. Ariel recently shared with APP staff what her involvement with the Blueprints program has meant in her own life and how the experience has shaped her personal and vocational goals for the future.

Ariel Smith, a Human Resources Major at UAB, first learned about Blueprints in her freshman Exploring Birmingham course taught by APP Executive Director Kristina Scott.

“I had made it very clear in our class discussions that my area of interest would be poverty and education,” said Ariel.

Today, Ariel leads the UAB mentors at Woodlawn High School and said she is “addicted” to the work.

Ariel is a Birmingham native. She was raised in a low-income, single-parent household and graduated from Cornerstone Academy and John Carroll High School. Ariel said she values the chance to extend a hand to students with whom she shares a background, but who might not have the same resources and relationships she had.

“We give them testimonies. We connect them with people they do not have in their families, they do not have in their neighborhood, and they are desperately looking to see. And for me, I’m a chance to be that image of a person that they either want to meet or want to become,” she said.

Ariel’s leadership with Blueprints also impacted her personal goals.

“Blueprints made me try to define where I wanted to go. I’ve realized that I can make an impact on education not so much by always being in the classroom, but on the administrative side. There is legislation that has to be passed, budgets that have to be allocated properly, and people that have to provide basic leadership training and development, where a person with a human resources background can be very helpful,” she said.

Ariel has decided to pursue a Masters of Public Administration after finishing her undergraduate studies at UAB and intends to pursue a career in education policy.