Justin  Diversity in Higher Education

Justin Diversity in Higher Education

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Someone once told me, its not how you start
but how you finish… although my story is nowhere near close to over, I like to think
everything that’s happened so far is not by mistake. Welcome to my life Farming has been in my family for 6 generations,
and on my fathers side, this all began back in the 1800s in North Dakota. In North Dakota,
my family was hit with difficult times just like many other farm families, which made
them head out west to the large town of Easton, Ca. In Easton, my great grandfather started
Arnett Family Farms, which later became Smith Family Farms, which started the historic Downtown
Fresno Farmers market. During the Great Depression my grandfather,
Melvin Smith headed out West to San Francisco with his older brothers to find work, and
this is where the love story begins. On my family farm is where he met my grandmother
Florence Smith I tell you this story because growing up working
on the farm with my grandfather are some of the best memories in my life, and helped shape
who I am today. From him teaching me how to drive tractor to us waking up bright and early
to head to the farmers market truly instilled a work ethic in me that has shown me nothing
shall be given to me but only earned. On my mothers side, my great grandparents
migrated from Zacatecas Mexico, and settled in Madera, ca and other areas of Texas and
Kansas. My great grand parents had 16 children, and from there my grand mother had my mother
and two other children. Learning my grandparents history from migrating to the United States,
helped shape my view of leadership, because I learned in some cases I will need to take
leaps of faith and others will be depending on me, even if I don’t know what lies ahead. I wish they can see today what their courage
and bravery has done for our family, and the legacy they created. Once my parents got married, they settled
on the family farm, and decided that it was a good idea for my brother and I to attend
private school. For elementary school, I attended Kerman Christian
School in Kerman, Ca. At this school, I remember encountering my first instances of racism
being the only latino student in the class, and even at this young of an age I knew it
was wrong. I didn’t quite know what was happening at that time, but I always questioned
why the teacher treated me differently at times or if anything was said about hispanic
culture, they always seemed to look at me as if I knew all the answers. And then during this time… the great recession
of 2008 hit and my life forever changed. Everywhere, essentially down by 4/5 percent,
we’re down 16 percent, DOW at the same time has fallen about 14 percent, the stock market
is now down 21 percent, we’re now down 43 percent, what in the world is happening on
walstreet? We’re in the most serious recession in decades, and that means life as most americans
know it, is about to change in some cases dramatically It was a sunny afternoon and I remember my
mom saying, give me your pants Justin I need to cut them into shorts, and sit down I need
to give you a haircut. I didn’t quite know what was happening but later learned that
the recession greatly affected my family farm, to the point my mom didn’t know how she
would afford our school clothes or be able to take us to get a haircut. As much of a hard time this was, during the
recession I learned that in this life, there were only a few things I needed to be happy.
As long as I had god, family, and my health, life is pretty good. There are so many instances
where I find myself never living in the moment, or always telling myself I need to do better,
but honestly, life could be so much harder and I’ve learned to be thankful for life
today. In leadership, I learned it’s important to plan ahead and prepare for tomorrow, but
always remember to celebrate the small wins and live in the moment. Just like many of us, while attending middle
school and high school, I always felt this battle between my racial identities of being
half white and half hispanic. I seemed to never have a group I belonged to, because
I was always told, I’m not white enough, or you’re not a real mexican. Still to this
day, I find myself trying to navigate these identities, but what I do know is that through
these experiences, I have learned what my privilege is and how I need to use my privilege
to help others In high school, I focused on athletics and
academics, and athletics became a large part of my identity. Winning the California State
Championship is still one of my greatest accomplishments to this day and my identity as an athlete
truly helped shape my view of commitment and dedication as a leader, and still remains
with me today. During this time, I still remember always trying to fit in with certain groups
of people that really didn’t care about me, and I let there view of me change how
I viewed myself. I didn’t know how to love myself. I learned the importance of having
a strong foundation in my identity, and to have those I can call on in times of need
is crucial for me in this life. At the same time, high school is where I began
to learn how much of one’s past, is a part of who they presently are. In high school,
I began to lose sense of who Justin Smith was, and my insecurities and defeciencies
began to overcome my desires to be who I truly wanted to be. Addiction… addiction is a very powerful
and dangerous attribute that in my case, got passed down from generation to generation.
I always told myself, I’m not like my family members, I’m different. I seemed to always
want to believe that I loved myself enough that I didn’t need someone or something
to feel that void. I bring this part of my life up, because in
many instances part of my identity is being the person who is always happy and seems like
they it all together, but in many cases that isn’t it at all. In leadership, I’ve learned
that many of us are fighting a battle that isn’t able to be seen on the surface and
in these instances is where authenticity and love are at there strongest. As a leader in
Higher Education, I intend on interacting with every student with these two attributes
because you never know when they will need them the most. During my time in college, my faculty members
Dr. Adam Schrag and Dr. Billie Jean Wiebe showed me that I am smart enough for graduate
school, and in many cases I self-doubted myself. I had faculty that pushed me to be the best
version of myself, and I saw how much they loved what they did. Seeing that, I learned
that for me I wanted to have a career like them, where going to work brought them fulfillment
to be able to help their students. While in college,I also found my love for
higher education. Still a mentor today, my old boss Denise Baronian, asked me the question,
Justin, what do you want to do after graduation? I replied, I want to do what you do Denise,
I want to change lives. Hearing students tell me how thankful they were that I took the
time to hear their story, left me with a feeling that I knew I was at hime. I finally found a passion for a career that
I knew this is where I belonged, and finally understanding that my past mistakes allowed
me to grow into a leader that is going to be able to change lives. My story is going
to be able to help others, and to me that is what leadership is about. Being a leader,
isn’t just about having the fancy title or power, but making a difference whether
large or small in others lives. Denise taught me the importance of having
a mentor, and as a leader, I want to continuously seek mentorship, as well as be a mentor in
the future to students. So who is Justin Smith today? Justin Smith
is a person that is continuously learning everyday, still making mistakes, and still
understanding his identity. You see, similar to many of the authors we’ve
read this year, we have a voice, and I will use mine to make a difference in this life We’re almost there everyone, Thank you all
for being a part of my story

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