Phyllis Jackson-Smith, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
I was born in Atlanta, Georgia at a time when African-Americans were still being relegated to the back of the bus; segregated schools were the rule, and voting rights were still a distant cry. So the need for change was wholly evident to those who were being denied equal access to civil rights. African –American students thrived in schools in spite of inadequate facilities, under-staffing and generally substandard equipment. Fortunately, I was born to parents who imagined a quality education, not only for their children, but for all children of color. When I was entering Primary school, my father joined seven other African-American parents in filing suit against the Atlanta Board of Education for its failure to comply with the Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education decision, handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954. At a young age, I was made to bear witness to the harsh realities of racial bigotry as the hearings went forth. Through my father’s efforts in this important struggle for the right to an “equal education”, I learned the virtues of courage, perseverance, and resilience, which I would later apply in my own life pursuits.
In 1964, I and one of my sisters were among the seven African –American students who integrated Southwest High School (now Jean Childs Young Middle School). Sustaining the daily onslaught of racial slurs, jeers and physical assaults required the virtues I learned from my parents. I received a scholarship to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, where I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. My graduate education was provided by a Fellowship awarded through The University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration; during my second year there, I served as Co-Chair of the Student Government Association.
After receiving a Master of Arts in Social Services Administration in 1974, I began my career as a Clinical Social Worker at The University of Chicago Hospital, Woodlawn Child Health Clinic. My professional pursuits continued with certifications in Alcohol and Addictions counseling; certified Sexual Therapist; Licensed Clinical Social Worker. My professional career has spanned three states: Chicago; Texas; Georgia. I have worked in various roles including Social Services Director to an inpatient psychiatry unit; Social Services Supervisor at an adoption agency; medical and clinical oncology social worker; Psychotherapist; Private Practitioner; College Instructor.
A career in Clinical Social Work has allowed me to assist individuals and families to become their own change agents that will enable them to overcome the many vicissitudes of life. I regard education as the gateway to change that motivates us to succeed in life. My faith in God and membership at Ben Hill United Methodist Church (Atlanta) has provided opportunity for me to pursue the principle of helping others to better their own lives. I am a former Chair of Youth Ministry. I currently serve on the Higher Education and Campus Ministry; Differently Abled Ministry; Hospitality Ministry; Usher Team; Coordinator for the Smart Lunch/Smart Kid Program; Family Coordinator for Angel Tree; Volunteer for Adopt-a-Family. I am the proud parent of a son and a daughter and the grandmother of one grandson.