March 2016 Smithie of the Month: Atema Addy


Name: Atema Addy

Class Year: 2014

How long have you lived in Philadelphia? 

I was actually born in Philadelphia and have lived here my entire life, besides the 4 years I lived in Northampton and in Houston, TX immediately after graduation.

What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?

My favorite restaurant to visit is ECOWAS African Restaurant on 64th and Woodland Avenue. The food is phenomenal!

What are you up to now?

I currently am the executive director of UPLIFT- United Peoples’ Learning Initiative for Tomorrow, an NGO that strives to provide students in need with educational resources and services. We are currently working in Liberia, West Africa and South West Philadelphia. This June, we are planning a trip to Liberia to establish 5 reading rooms in 5 schools. We have 3000 texts being shipped to Liberia and we are currently fundraising for this initiative. We are currently establishing a resource center in South West Philadelphia that will boost the literacy rates of the youth and adults of our community and expose them to non-violent form of expression. Alongside directing UPLIFT I guest teach at 11 schools in various parts of the city. Teaching in Philly is extremely rewarding and beneficial since it allows for us at UPLIFT to stay connected with Philadelphia’s youth and their needs. I’ve taught on all levels from PreK to 10th grade thus far and though I love all the grade levels I’ve taught, high school is definitely my favorite!

What house did you live in on campus and what was your favorite thing about it?

I lived in Cushing House and my favorite thing about living there was house culture—more specifically Linda, our housekeeper. She was the best part of living in Cushing since she was always warm, understanding, and kind. She also got us birthday cakes at the end of each month! Linda and Diane, the lunchtime dining staff, were both equally awesome and I love them for making Cushing a special place to live.

Why did you choose Smith?

In high school, I applied to 16 colleges and was accepted to them all, but Smith was an easy decision. I chose Smith because I was interested in attending an all women’s college with rich history and a beautiful campus. Smith also provided a great financial aid package, which made it easier to say yes!

Who was your favorite professor/what was your best class?

I have 2 equally favorite professors—Adam Hall and Pamela Petro—because they are supportive, understanding and down to earth individuals whose company I enjoy. My favorite classes were writing about travel with Pam since I love to travel and write and neuroendocrinology (hormones are really interesting and control so much of what we do involuntarily)! I took both these classes during my senior year and I was impressed and stimulated not only by the content of the classes, but also by the fun and inviting structure of the daily lessons and assignments.

Do you have a defining/favorite/most memorable/transformative Smith moment

During my first year of college, my first year seminar professor told me, “I see this a lot with my black students, you all struggle” and that quote, in those exact words, stuck with me since. At first, I had a hard time deciding whether or not to feel offended by his words, as he too was a black man, but this amongst other quotes of his have stuck with me since the words were uttered, and I believe I will remember it forever. During my first semester, I was convinced that this man hated me and wanted to see me suffer, but reflecting now, I believe he wanted to see me prepared.Since graduating Smith, I have changed my view on this professor—he prepared me as a writer, he prepared me for things that were said and insinuated by people who could not identify with my racial or economic background, he honestly prepared me for so many other experiences I have had since. Though I avoided and disliked that professor all 4 years, immediately after graduating, I appreciated him much more than I did as a student at Smith.

How did your Smith experience shape your life?

My Smith experience shaped my life in many ways. Smith exposed me to immeasurable options and opportunities. My Smith experience allowed for me to travel “on the house” and to explore my passions through exploring my world. My Smith experiences lead me to my calling in life—UPLIFT and providing equal opportunities and resources for financially deprived youths around the world. My Smith experience showed me what it’s like to be backed by an institution that values my requests, my thoughts, one that is invested in my success, growth, and future. Smith was invested in me, and this understanding transformed me into someone who doesn’t accept the cards I was dealt, but one who reshuffles and chooses her own hand. I believe that my Smith experience has not ended—it continues to shape me and will continue to impact my life for as long as I am alive (that’s not dramatic at all).



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