Jerome Smith

Growing up in a predominantly white state as a young black man and living in an impoverished part of town, the odds have been against me since the beginning. 

I had my first child, my daughter Anajah, two days before my 15th birthday. I was stricken with both joy and uncertainty upon her arrival: joy because I had created this miracle, and uncertainty because I did not know how I was going to navigate my adolescence with a new baby. Yet I persevered through my different roles as a full-time single father, full-time high school student, and full-time athlete. 

I did not complete these tasks alone, for I had an abundant amount of support during this period of my life. My school instructors, coaches, friends, and family stepped in to let me know that my community was secure. Together we would all raise a wonderful little girl.

My daughter turned eight in 2015 and my son, Xi’ohn, was born two-and-a-half months early due to pregnancy complications that crept up unexpectedly. At this point in my life, I was a full-time employee and I had begun my first semester enrolled as a full-time student at a local barber school. My son spent five weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit before he came home, and during that time I maintained work, school, and raising my daughter. 

Since my son was born, he has faced many adversities, and his courage to fight prematurity and the health risks associated with that have given me strength. I recently resigned from my full-time position at work to pursue self-employment as a barber in order to commit to more time with my children. 

I have no regrets for my journey thus far. Fatherhood has given me the opportunity to raise two beautiful and unique children who will encourage me every step of the way.