Ronald Smith grew up with troubled parents. Both his mother and father were addicted to crack cocaine. His father was also an alcoholic and mostly absent from Ronald’s life. Ronald remembers his father as the promise maker. He would wait patiently at the window of his mother’s apartment for his father to come and buy him new shoes or take him fishing. When his father finally did show up it would be with an excuse and another promise waiting to be broken.
Ronald remembers his mother trying to do her best for the family but she had problems of her own. Fortunately, Ronald’s godmother played a major role early on in his life. She helped with school uniforms, school supplies, and groceries. Ronald often spent his weekends with his godmother. When Ronald was in second grade, his mother stabbed his sister. With his mother in jail, Ronald went to live with his godmother where he stayed for three years. During this period, he was very angry at the circumstances of his life and often got into fights at school, which was difficult for his godmother to deal with.
In sixth grade, Ronald entered the foster care system. His foster mother, Ms. Jeanette Smith, welcomed him into her home as one of her own. She told him that they were meant to be together because they had the same last name. Life seemed to improve, Ronald was able to reconnect with his parents who had achieved sobriety, he played quarterback for Miami Carol City Senior High School’s football team, and he was accepted to Florida A&M University.
While studying and playing football at Florida A&M, Ronald’s Guardian ad Litem (GAL) volunteer, Charles Jacque, checked in with Ronald once a month. Charles sent gift cards and groceries to ensure that Ronald was taken care of and could focus on his studies.
Unfortunately, the hardships continued. Ronald’s mother was shot and killed while in the car, cutting short the new relationship Ronald and his mother had formed. Ronald struggled at Florida A&M academically but despite the distance between Tallahassee and Miami, Charles did his best to provide direction and support to Ronald. During one phone conversation, the two had a three hour heart to heart, in which Ronald was very open about his fears; His GPA was suffering and his future at Florida A&M was uncertain. A year later, Ronald returned to Miami without a degree.
Upon returning to Miami, Ronald met with Charles, who told him about an open internship position in the County Attorney’s Office and encouraged Ronald to attend an interview. Charles spent time with Ronald rehearsing interview skills like punctuality, waiting to sit until instructed, no chewing gum, and looking the interviewer in the eye. With the help of Charles and First Assistant County Attorney and Voices For Children Board Member, Ms. Abigail Price-Williams, Ronald was granted a second interview and then hired for the position.
Thanks to the continued support of his GAL, Ronald was well on his way to a successful life. He was in school and had a great job but he spent much of his time commuting between his home in Opa Locka and school and work in Downtown Miami. He had to take the bus and metro daily and often did not return home until 10pm.
In February 2012, Ronald shared his story of obstacles and triumphs at the Voices For Children’s Be A Voice, Inspire Hope Gala. Inspired by the young man’s resolve, gala attendees, Michael Wohl of Pinnacle Housing and Ana Weissman, worked together to move Ronald closer to his school and office. Together, Voices For Children, Mrs. Weissman and Mr. Wohl, moved Ronald into a fully furnished Downtown apartment. When Ronald saw the apartment for the first time, he looked at the view from the window and proclaimed, “This is what motivation looks like.”
Today Ronald is in his second year at Miami Dade College to earn his Paralegal Certificate as well as his Associates of Science Degree in Pre-Law. He works full time as a Clerk Specialist at the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office and hopes to one day be a lawyer at the office that gave him his first big opportunity. Reflecting on his life’s path Ronald says, “No matter how bad the hand that is dealt to you is and what mistakes you make in life, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. “ The Voices For Children network made a big difference in Ronald’s life.
You can help vulnerable foster youth become successful young adults like Ronald. Be A Voice by Donating to Voices For Children or by becoming a Guardian ad Litem volunteer.