My Voice, My Story: Ja’na Smith

In our quest to find out how our services helped young people in our community,
we recently interviewed one of our alumni.

Ja’na Smith

How did you hear about Greater Miami Service Corps (GMSC)?

I learned about Greater Miami Service Corps shortly after moving to Miami. I noticed the orange shirts on the streets of Miami, cleaning the city, and doing various activities locally for the community. 

Why did you join the program?

A friend told me about an opportunity that empowered young youth and provided scholarship money. Having a chance to be a part-time county employee while also earning funds for my education was just what I needed. 

Mention a few accomplishments as you went through the program.

During my time as a Corps member, I earned a promotion and the title of team leader. I drove the county van and ran my team, with other Corpsmembers supporting me with this responsibility. After graduating, I was invited back as an AmeriCorps VISTA. As a VISTA, I was a part of a team of four other graduates and supported the launching of ServiceWorks, an AmeriCorps program funded through Points of Light and CitiBank. Through the ServiceWorks modules, we provided training to over 300 young people through ServiceWorks training. We empowered them to be a staple in their community by offering critical support, educational materials, and capstone projects.  

Your best moments at GMSC (Share a couple of great moments you had)

One of the greatest moments I had at GMSC was when I got the opportunity to give the welcome speech for the graduating class of 2014. GMSC not only provided youth with employment and on-the-job training, but they were also a school that provided those with the necessary tools and credits needed to receive their diploma. 

Another one of my favorite moments was as an AmeriCorps VISTA; one of our capstone projects was to refresh a local daycare. We spent the day reading to the babies, revived the playground, painted an educational mural, did a book drive, and created a library inside the daycare where the children could take a new book home for free. As many as they want, at any time. And yes, it’s still there to this day. 

Did the program assist you in creating a better life for yourself?

The program provided me with the professional tools utilized in my current position. I developed relationships with other nonprofits that led me to a full-time career in social work. GMSC provided me with hands-on skills to fast track into a trade. I was awarded the highest scholarship through dedication and support, which allowed me to further my education. I earned two degrees, physical therapy and massage therapy, financial aid. Currently, I’m a licensed massage therapist running my own business while also providing support to at-risk inner-city families through a local nonprofit community organization. 

What would you say to other young people if you had the opportunity to recommend the GMSC program to them?

Greater Miami Service Corps can be a stepping stone to the next chapter of your goals. As a Corpsmember, there are vast avenues throughout the program. There are no limits to what you can accomplish. In addition to providing community service, there are also referrals for post-secondary education and mental health support. Through training, workshops, and community service, you develop a family that strives to strengthen the necessary relationships and skills you may need to propel yourself to that next level.