A True Honor: Endowment Helps Rural County Students Succeed
If you pause for a moment and think about how you got where you are, there is likely a person who helped you who will come to mind. For many in Yadkin County, that person was Sherri C. Smith.
"What Sherri did was help youth with barriers. She was employed by Workforce Development of North Carolina. That was her job, but she went far above and beyond her official duties to help youth," said Walter G. Smith, Jr., Sherri's husband for 35 years. "She went to schools, talked to students and any student that had a barrier to education, she would help them. She arranged tutors for them, helped them complete their high school education or GED and obtain their Associate Degrees from community colleges. She talked to local industry to find internships for the kids in their field of study, sometimes she even bought their interview clothes."
After Sherri passed away unexpectedly in 2014, Smith ensured her good work would continue to help future generations of young people with a legacy gift from his IRA to the Farm-to-Philanthropy Endowment in Sherri's name. With the assistance of his financial advisor, Smith named The North Carolina Agricultural Foundation, Inc. as the beneficiary of his IRA. When he passes away, the funds from his IRA will go directly to the foundation to fund the endowment.
"It was a win-win for me," said Smith. "I was able to honor my wife and give back to NC State, and I know that these students who receive help from the endowment will do extremely well."
The Farm-to-Philanthropy Endowment in memory of Sherri C. Smith funds initiatives that support rural county students and facilitate their successful enrollment in CALS. Some activities include: ACT Supplemental Preparation in Rural Education (ASPIRE), Student Transfer Enrollment Advising and Mentoring (STEAM), "pay-it-forward" service learning opportunities, and scholarships.
"I can't think of anything better to honor her," said Smith. "The Endowment will make sure that rural students in North Carolina have the opportunity to attend NC State."
Smith knows first-hand the impact NC State can have on a rural county student. Smith grew up in Robeson County and comes from a long line of family farmers.
"NC State was the only college I applied to," he said. "I learned a lot about life and fellowship with friends. The professors were fantastic. They always found time to talk to me and were interested in the students."
Smith was on the 1973 ACC Championship football team and graduated from CALS in 1976 with a degree in biological and agricultural engineering. He carried the bonds he made and lessons he learned at NC State with him into his long and varied career that includes farming, teaching vocational agriculture to high schoolers in Martin County, joining the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the Executive Director of a field office in Yadkin County, and continuously working with farmers to help them find programs to better their farming operations. Currently, he is helping farmers transition their farms to grow industrial hemp for fiber and hemp for CBD extraction.
Beyond his legacy gift, Smith remains engaged with NC State by serving as a past president of the CALS Alumni and Friends Society as well as on several different boards, including the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation, Inc. board, and by serving on the N.C. State Extension advisory committee in Yadkin County.