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Class of 2000 - Jennifer Smith is striving to succeed

November 28, 1999

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series profiling nine members of the class of 2000. The Herald-Mail has been following each student since they were kindergartners at Conococheague Elementary School in 1988. The profiles will appear on the last Monday of each month through May.

Jennifer SmithBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




Staying in school was a struggle for Jennifer Smith, but she is striving to graduate despite the problems of her past.

Turbulence in her teenage years took Smith to jail. In her freshman year alone, she attended four different schools. "I kept getting in trouble and getting kicked out," she said.

cont. from front page

Since childhood, Smith has moved several times, living separately with her mother, grandmother, father and three different aunts. The 17-year-old is now pregnant with a boy she calls Cameron James.

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But Smith is determined to succeed. She took summer courses, takes night classes and is on schedule to graduate in May from Williamsport High School. She works regularly at Sheetz and plans to attend college.

"I'm trying to settle down," she said.

Smith is soft-spoken and pleasant, evincing hope instead of anger or bitterness. The carefree kindergartner she was is still evident in the young woman she became. As she points out, she was not a delinquent by design.

"I guess I was just stubborn. It was 'my way' or 'too bad' and that got me in a lot of trouble," she said.

Shortly after turning 15, Smith said she was arrested for assault and malicious destruction of property. The court sent her to Alfred E. Noyes juvenile detention center in Rockville, Md., for rehabilitation.

She then spent seven months at San Mar Children's Home near Boonsboro. San Mar cares for girls ages 12 to 18 who are the victims of abuse or neglect or whose families are considered dysfunctional. It was there Smith said she began to turn her life around.

She made friends with Director Bruce Anderson and took up cycling. She biked from Frostburg University to Ocean City, Md., one week last September as part of a fund-raiser for San Mar.

"Everybody kind of looked up to me there," she said. "I guess I was kind of an honor student."

Getting good grades was not hard for her. "When I'm in school, I usually make straight As," she said. Sharon Barnhart, a guidance counselor at Williamsport High School, said Smith is an excellent student.

"She works very hard," said Barnhart. "She has a very pleasant personality. She is a very nice young lady to talk to. For a student who has had to overcome adversity, she's done a very good job.

"This is a person who has not had everything (given to her) in life and actually worked for what she's got."

Smith now lives with her aunt and uncle, Donna and Charlie Turner, near Cearfoss. They took her home after a parole violation in February. It brought her some stability after a lot of change.

Some things don't change. When she was 11, Smith's least favorite thing was school reports. Now it's school work.

When she was in kindergarten, her favorite thing was playing with her sister, Nicole, now 15. They recently attended a homecoming dance together. But Smith said she doesn't know most of her family well.

Over the years, her goals have changed. At 6, she wanted to be a painter. At 11, she wanted to be a veterinarian. At 16, she wanted to join the U.S. Air Force. She still does, but she says she can't enter it as an unwed mother.

She broke up with the father when he changed too much, she said, but she had to keep the baby. "After carrying it, there's no way you can give it up," she said. "I wasn't sure I would be able to care for it at first, but I'm going to try."

Since taking a job in June, she has worked about 30 hours a week outside school. But her pregnancy is about seven months along, so Smith is now working weekends only. But attending school day and night keeps her busy.

When she has free time, she likes to hang out with friends. She reads a lot of Dean Koontz and Stephen King. She plans to attend Hagerstown Community College to study behavioral and social sciences. She wants to help people through analysis.

Maturity might help her aim for success. "I've calmed down a lot," she said.

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