LaToya Smith, a 1998 Lock Haven University graduate, knows that both a scholarship and having a mentor can go a long way in helping a student graduate from college. That's why she helped establish the Shades of LHU Legacy Scholarship.
Smith has been a member of the LHU Alumni Association board of directors since July 2021. She is a member of the Legacy Committee and prides herself on being an advocate for students of color.
The Shades of LHU Legacy Scholarship she helped get off the ground, awards up to $1,000 annually to a black Commonwealth University-Lock Haven student with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. It was awarded for the first time in the 2021-22 school year to Tymir James, a junior mid-level education major, who received the maximum award.
Along with providing financial assistance to establish the scholarship, and recruiting alumni to support it, Smith also works with former Alumni Association President, Ed Wright '71; Lock Haven's Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Kenneth Hall '94; and Commonwealth University's Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Albert Jones '99, to provide mentorship to students of color.
"Diversity-based programming and equipping students from traditionally underrepresented populations with educational resources is an essential value of Commonwealth University's mission," said Bashar W. Hanna, Commonwealth University president. "I cannot thank LaToya enough for her dedication to positively impacting The Haven's students."
"I would've loved to have an alumni mentor talk to me when I started college," Smith said. "It's important for students to have mentors who experienced what they're going through and are willing to lend a helping hand to support them."
Smith graduated from LHU with a degree in journalism and mass communication. She was a guard on the women's basketball team, a member of The Eagle Eye student newspaper, and the Black Student Union. She credits her Haven experience, especially as a student-athlete, with teaching her the importance of teamwork, discipline, accountability, and work ethic.
Following her time at The Haven, Smith earned a master's degree in education and counseling from Auburn University, and a master's in divinity from Drew Theological School. In 2016, she founded LCS Counseling & Consulting Agency. Since then, LCS has grown from a one-person venture to a practice that includes 13 therapists and one administrative staff member. Smith is also an ordained minister.
"I work in a helping profession. Helping people process how to become better versions of themselves is what I do," Smith said. "Sometimes, students of color choose not to return to school because they don't have the resources they need or can't find a community of friends they feel they can fit in with."
"Mentoring these students is important because I think about what I needed back when
I was that age," she added. "It's great to give money if you can, but voices matter
too, and using our voices to empower students is something each of us can do to make
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