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Aisha Smith ’06 DANIEL MURPHY SCHOLARSHIP FUND

Aisha Smith ’06 knows she wouldn’t be where she is today without the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund (DMSF), which offers high school scholarship assistance and educational support to students from Chicago. A lawyer for the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation in Madison, Wis., Smith grew up in Harvey, a southern Chicago suburb with a tough reputation. Smith’s seventh-grade teacher chose one student each year to apply to the DMSF program. In Smith’s seventh-grade year, the teacher selected her. At that time, most Daniel Murphy recipients used their scholarships to attend local Catholic schools, like the one Smith’s mother worked hard to send her to, but Smith wanted to look further afield. Initially uncomfortable with the idea of her daughter leaving for boarding school, Smith’s mom finally said, after they visited CA together, “I hate the thought of you going, but I won’t forgive myself if I don’t let you try this.” After years of hard work, Smith says, “I felt proud that I got in, and I didn’t want to miss out on it just because it was new and different.” Once there, her culture shock motivated her. “You have to figure out how to be you in any space, how to be respectful and open while retaining your sense of self,” she says. “I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s what I was developing. I wouldn’t have been able to do so well if I hadn’t had that at such an early point in my life.” At CA, she focused on student leadership and service, eventually becoming student head of school. She had always gotten good grades, but at CA she first felt that she could gain mastery academically. Smith threw herself into adjusting so wholeheartedly that she didn’t feel homesick until her junior year. By then, visiting home on breaks, she was discouraged by the few opportunities available to students in her community. “It shouldn’t have cost so much and taken so much effort to get a good education,” she says. Smith feels enormous gratitude toward DMSF. As a middle schooler, she worked with its partner organization, LEAP (Language Empowers All People). She went in “talking a mile a minute,” she says, and learned to better express herself and adapt to professional settings. “It’s one thing to get a scholarship,” she says. “It’s another to know how to feel comfortable in a new environment.” Through DMSF, Smith was mentored by a judge, who met with her regularly and helped her translate her interests into a career path, eventually assisting with law school applications. Smith in turn worked as a counselor for a DMSF summer program before starting college at Northwestern University, and for two years after law school she volunteered for DMSF, mentoring boarding students at Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wis. Smith says being an open-minded attorney is a huge asset, and she attributes it to her education at CA. “Whenever I’m asked to help, I’m in — in any way I can to make it possible for other kids,” Smith says. “I know how transformative my education was.”

Whenever I’m asked to help, I’m in — in any way I can to make it possible for other kids. I know how transformative my education was.

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5/3/18 12:33 PM

Profile for Concord Academy

CA Magazine Spring 2018 Issue  

The spring 2018 issue of CA Magazine highlights alumnae/i and students who are giving back, both in their communities and further afield. Ca...

CA Magazine Spring 2018 Issue  

The spring 2018 issue of CA Magazine highlights alumnae/i and students who are giving back, both in their communities and further afield. Ca...

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