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60 Years of Stories! Adrienne Smith

Adrienne Smith

“After 20 plus years, why do I stay at St. Louis Community College? I really don't think it gets any better than STLCC, a place that's so embedded in my soul. I'm good at what I do, and I want the students of St. Louis Community College to have good professors. I love the College so much, and I want to give my very best to the students.”

-       Ms. Adrienne Smith, English professor, STLCC at Forest Park

On April 20, St. Louis Community College will celebrate its 60th anniversary. To commemorate 60 years of expanding minds and changing lives, STLCC is sharing stories about the people who make the College great.

Adrienne Smith has taught English at STLCC-Forest Park since 1999, but her STLCC story began much earlier. Adrienne’s late mother graduated from STLCC-Forest Park then returned to campus as a longtime employee. Adrienne followed in her mother's footsteps, first as a student, then as a professor. 

When Adrienne was 12 years old, her mother decided to go back to school at STLCC to obtain her college degree. As a single mother of four, she was determined to make the most of the educational opportunities STLCC provided.  Adrienne Smith's mother, photo courtesy A. Smith

“My mom would sit at the kitchen table and do her homework with us. I thought that was so cool. When she got her report card, she would show us and we would celebrate together because she was a straight-A student.”

Adrienne spent many hours on campus, often reading or doing homework as her mother attended classes and worked in the curriculum and assessment, international education department. Over time, the professors and staff on the Forest Park campus got to know Adrienne and referred to her as Angel, her childhood nickname.

Adrienne’s mother went on to graduate Phi Theta Kappa and earned a scholarship to Saint Louis University. After graduation, she went back to work at St. Louis Community College in the assessment center, returning to the office where she had worked as a work-study student. She couldn't have guessed her oldest daughter Adrienne would follow in her footsteps.

Growing up, Adrienne had to juggle school with the responsibilities of helping care for her younger siblings and working multiple jobs. Despite competing priorities, Adrienne was a strong student, and going to college was always in her future. “I was an aspiring news anchor and I wanted to go to Mizzou to study journalism. My mom sat me down and explained my options. She said you need a four-year degree and two of those years could be free. I said, “Say no more!” Since I already had experience at Forest Park, it was a no-brainer to attend STLCC to get my associate degree in liberal arts.”      

Adrienne’s path is very common at STLCC. STLCC ensures all credits will transfer to Missouri public four-year universities like University of Missouri-Columbia. STLCC employees are dedicated to working with students as they navigate their post-secondary options. 

While a bright student, success at STLCC was not a given for Adrienne. Consumed with the responsibilities of two jobs, she only achieved a 2.7 GPA. There were times when Adrienne wasn't sure college was for her. “It’s a part of my story that I often share with my students. My favorite students are the ones who thought they could not do it because I can relate to them. I faced a lot of adversity growing up and as a student at STLCC. I saw my mother succeed at STLCC as a single parent with four kids, two jobs, no car. I make sure my students understand that they can do whatever it is they want to do with their life.”

After two years at STLCC, Adrienne went on to graduate with a journalism degree from Central Missouri State University and earning a master's in communications from Webster University. Afterward, she moved back to St. Louis and worked in broadcast media. It was there her boss told her she would make a great teacher. She went on to teach at St. Louis Public Schools, the district she attended growing up. “I taught communication arts at the middle school level. Instantly, I fell head over heels in love with teaching.”

Adrienne Smith's family, photo courtesy A. Smith

As a single mother herself, Adrienne needed a higher-paying job. She applied to teach at STLCC and was hired as a professor in 1999. Returning to the Forest Park campus, a place where she spent so many hours as a child, felt like a homecoming.  “I remember when I was first hired, some of the professors who were my professors were still there. A couple were even my mom's professors. I remember walking down the halls and hearing, “Hey Angel!”, and I would respond by calling them Dr. or Mr. or Mrs. Finally someone pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey, you don't have to call me that. We're colleagues now.’”

For Adrienne, the relationships she has formed over more than 40 years are what make STLCC great.

Her mother had two co-workers at STLCC, Tracy Smith and Deborah Logan, who became her closest friends. “They are my aunts now. They've always been in my life, in and outside of work. When my mom passed away seven years ago, those ladies stepped in and supported me and my siblings. We're family. It's relationships like these that make STLCC so special to me.” 

*April 6, 2022 - Corrections were made to this profile story to accurately reflect Smith's degree earned at STLCC, as well as the names of the college's attended thereafter. We apologize for the error.

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