A Trans4mations Success Story
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Coker College wasn’t originally a part of Jubilee Smith’s life plan. The Greenwood, S.C., native envisioned herself going somewhere far from home. But while things didn’t work out as she planned, circumstances were in her favor. It turned out to be a move that would lead to academic success and a lifelong commitment to serving others.
“Never in a million years did I think Coker would change my life the way it did,” Jubilee admits.
Coker College has a unique academic and social curriculum for its students: the Trans4mations program, which guides students through a personalized sequence of experiences designed to help them discover their best self. In Coker College President Dr. Robert Wyatt’s inauguration speech, he said, “A student of Coker College must have the opportunity to experience the difference he or she can make. We want our students to be prepared to serve, to act, and to do.”
Jubilee is a Trans4mations success story—a textbook example of what Dr. Wyatt envisioned. She is a Sparrow Scholar, graduating early with a degree in social work specializing in pre-law. Sparrow Scholars are recognized for making life-changing differences by immersing themselves in the community and focusing their energy where it’s needed most.
“Jubilee has been an outstanding student leader as a Sparrow Scholar and president of the student organization F.A.N.G.S. (Freely and Nobly Giving Service),” says Darlene Small, assistant dean and director of Trans4mations at Coker College. “She has sought out experiences and helped to develop programs that have had a tremendous impact on the community. She is truly the epitome of service above self.”
Jubilee’s first Sparrow Scholar project focused on eliminating campus waste by feeding Hartsville’s hungry. She started a Hartsville chapter of the Food Recovery Network (FRN), which donates leftover food from the college’s dining hall to the local soup kitchen. For her second project, Jubilee created the Lunch Buddy Program, which teaches vital life and language skills to elementary school children.
The Food Recovery Network is the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America. In the fall of 2015, the organization recovered its one-millionth pound of food, a milestone that Coker College got to celebrate along with 160 other participating schools across the country.
“I was in the dining hall one day when lunch was ending, and there was this pan of chicken that had not even been touched,” Jubilee remembers. “I was thinking, 'There are hungry people in Hartsville who could be eating this food.'”
There was a lot of red tape to get through before FRN could become a reality. “It literally took a whole semester for me to get everything down so that we could actually start,” Jubilee says. “I almost gave up, but after a lot of tugging and pulling, I got a lot of yesses and it finally happened.”
Four times a week, Jubilee and a small handful of dedicated volunteers transport the leftover food from the dining hall to the soup kitchen. They weigh the food and refrigerate it for the soup kitchen to use as the next day’s meal.
But despite the success of her first project, Jubillee didn't stop there. Her Lunch Buddy project operates with six dedicated volunteers spending lunchtime on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays with students at four area elementary schools: Thornwell School for the Arts, Washington Street Elementary, West Hartsville Elementary, and Southside Early Childhood Center.
“It’s developed to help students improve and develop their social skills,” says Jubilee, “whether it’s how they communicate with adults or how they communicate with each other.”
To create her Lunch Buddy program, Jubilee collaborated with the TEACH Foundation, a local education nonprofit. “Jubilee’s Lunch Buddy project is a perfect fit for the Hartsville elementary schools in the TEACH Foundation’s PULSE initiative,” says Sharman Poplava, Executive Director of the TEACH Foundation. “Her project focuses on child development using the ‘social’ and ‘language’ pathways of the Comer School Development Program. She reached out into the community to create a partnership that will have a lasting impact.”
After her December graduation, Jubilee is hoping to participate in Teach for America while, at the same time, working toward her master’s degree in human service and counseling. She wants to be a Supreme Court justice.
Jubilee doesn’t pretend that her time at Coker has been an easy ride. “Adversity creates encouragement,” she says. “Because you fail, it doesn’t mean you have to stay there. You get up and figure out how to get through it. That’s why I’m graduating.”
This year, Jubilee had the opportunity to represent Coker College and the state of South Carolina as the National Association of Social Workers (N.A.S.W.) student representative for the S.C. chapter. She served on the N.A.S.W.’s board of directors, giving social work students everywhere a voice.
“I tell people all the time that the things I’ve done at Coker, I would never have gotten those opportunities at any other school,” says Jubilee.
“Circumstance is your best teacher,” she continues. “When I work with kids, I let them know that you do not have to be defined by your circumstances. Life has been my biggest teacher and my biggest encourager. Success with no struggle is no success at all.”