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Thoughts and Stories By D. Rena’ Chaney

~ Mariah Outstanding ~

Challenges with Eyes Wide Open”

 

Mariah Smith Screenshot-480Mariah Smith, a Peoria, Illinois native and 2010 graduate from Richwoods High School, continues to make strides in her life. Her legacy of athletic awards, nominations and record breaking achievements combined with leadership skills left no doubt Mariah was someone to watch. The accolades noted are just the minimal goals she has planned to reach and conquer in her journey and with a defined direction of where she wants to go, her blue print is a structure of greatness!

During Mariah’s Junior/Senior year her legacy was already set in play, her journey was seriously ready to begin. Recruiters took notice of her awesome leadership, dedication and focus both on and off the court and she was ultimately offered several scholarships with her final decision to play for the most prestigious Ivy League College in the Country, Princeton University (Tigers). #25-Mariah, a 6ft. center and co-captain for the nationally ranked 13th-Princeton Tigers (2014-2015 Season) and her teammates completed their regular season with a record of 14-0, and “SIXED” their way to the 2015-NCAA playoffs ending their reign with a record of 31-1, losing to #4Maryland in the second round. The Princeton Tigers, coached by Courtney Bang hart had one of their best seasons in the history of their basketball program. What a way to end the season! “Got Your Six” was the Tiger’s team motto for this season.

Mariah’s opportunity for a great education was empowered by her relentlessness, not just as an outstanding athlete but the strict parenting she received as a child. The broadened focus of her future was laid out and designed at a very young age. She expressed that without the support, unconditional love and nurturing of her immediate family, especially her mother Solivian Dismuke, (Peoria), her best friend, her grandmother Julia Graham, (N. Carolina) and aunt Marquita Davis (Alabama) her journey in the variety of transitions throughout her life thus far would have been even more challenging.

Within days following our conversation, Mariah was diligently working on and completing her final thesis which is one of the most important projects required before graduating from Princeton. She will be graduating in June 2015, with an Undergraduate Certificate in Robotics and Intelligent Systems with plans to obtain a degree in the field of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. She also has plans on obtaining yet another degree in Business with the desired Masters in Behavioral Science (ABA). For now, Mariah plans to take time off after graduating to sort out her new direction gearing up for all the new challenges. “I have no doubt on what I want to accomplish and the blessings I continue to receive and the support of my loved ones will keep me encouraged and focused.

I asked Mariah what advice she could provide to youth in today’s world. “Listen to your parents or those you know have your best interest at heart. As a black woman in today’s world we must not let anyone define us; we have to stop being influenced by negativity and learn how to discern situations for ourselves. We have to learn how to communicate better and better communicate outside of our own society as black people because education is one of the most important forms of communication. Our youth must learn to openly engage and understand every point of any argument or discussion in order to hold our own.”

Mariah, have you ever experienced any racial tension on campus at Princeton? “Yes, and there is continued dialog about racism on my campus, (nothing hostile) basically, expressions of different opinions, questions and lack of understanding of cultural differences. What I notice about one of the major differences with cultures is those who were raised in an all white communities/towns were not introduced to the side of black culture and in some cases knew nothing other than what the media portrays today which is terribly skewed.”

Mariah endured some stereo-typical mentality from different people during her college experience and found it challenging to unpack what eighteen years of misguided information about the black culture has left in the minds of so many. She expressed she will continue to educate and give a more positive perspective to those who do not quite understand cultural differences and vice-versa.

A summation of racial bias is lack of communication and knowledge about differences in ethnic backgrounds. Mariah’s experiences influenced her to participate in open discussions about black culture and how various media outlets portray blacks which is not how all black people portray themselves nor how we live. The cultural differences in society is what defines us as America, but until addressed with open dialog, respected and accepted will continue to create further separation.

Mariah expresses how she was raised contributes to her understanding of her self-worth and that she will not be a statistic portrayed in a negative light. She also shared that Princeton is now more proactive in addressing cultural differences on campus which is such an important issue and continuously have open discussions on campus.

Mariah noted that her relationship with her teammates at Princeton is like a sister-hood of mutual respect and admiration that will remain forever. Mariah, “I’ve had great support throughout my college years and I’m sure it will continue. The difference from one generation to the next continues to change dramatically but one thing which will never change is determination to educate ourselves, that is our choice and that can never be taken away. Take a leadership role in what you are trying to achieve and accomplish in life.”

Mariah’s summation for this interview leaves questions we may all want to think about and an open mind as we think about the future of our country.

How can our people learn to operate in a predominantly white society without being equipped with the tools and resources to do our jobs”? “How can Princeton being the best school in the country with future leaders and politicians graduating have a small faction of people be so cut off from the diversity of America? Mariah emphasizes, “Ignorance is no excuse!”

Mariah was quite adamant in ensuring I note in this article how she feels about cultural differences and racial tension. She states, “In no way does my opinion and feelings about cultural differences and racial issues affect the special friendships and bonds I have made with my teammates and my fellow classmates. Those friendships are very dear to me in my heart and have grown over the years. I love each and every one of them and our bond will remain forever.”

In conducting this interview, I was not only impressed with Mariah’s accomplishments but so very proud of this young lady’s achievements, goals, mission, determination and strength. She shows great leadership qualities and I have no doubt she will be one individual who will not only make a difference in this world but also leave a continued legacy on all that she does!

Thank you Mariah.