Who WE Are – Sandra Smithers

Sandra Smithers is a busy woman. At age 78, this retired educator still advocates for students in the Colonial School District (CSD) where she has lived her entire life in the community called Dunleith. As President of the Dunleith Civic Association, Smithers works hard to build bridges between communities along the Route 9 Corridor and CSD saying, “Relationships are everything. We have parents who are not the best advocates in the schools because they did not have the best experiences so we have to be willing to be open and have what some people call courageous conversations, but I call them necessary.” Smithers first started advocating for students when she began a program called the New Castle Coalition that was aimed at steering young people away from alcohol, tobacco, and drugs but says she and fellow organizers soon realized they needed to take a more holistic approach to help students. That’s when a program called “An Alternative to Out-of-School- Suspension” was founded by Smithers. “AOSS works with suspended students and allows them to restore themselves.” The program, which runs out of the Rosehill Community Center, provides students who have 1-3 day suspensions with an alternative to get a full day of school work done with the oversight of an educator at the center rather than spending those days idle at home. As a result of AOSS, the suspensions do not go on the student’s records as missed days of school. “It’s received very well by parents and the schools…we have a community of young people who are fast-tracked to prison, that’s our future.” Smithers believes by giving students extra academic, social, and emotional support she can help them lead productive lives. “When a kid goes to a detention home or prison their life is impacted forever. Their future is marginalized when they can’t pass a background check so they can’t work…it’s our responsibility to help prevent that from happening.” Retirement doesn’t mean not working for the community she loves, so CSD owes a great deal of thanks to Sandra Smithers for representing Who WE Are!