TCC helped Mary Helen Smith become a better student athlete
Story and photo by Courteney Jones
Many students choose to attend TCC because they feel it better prepares them to later attend a university, but the preparation is not just academic. For Marianna native Mary Helen Smith, TCC helped prepare her for university athletics, too.
“I wanted to play Division 1 softball eventually,” said Smith, who attended TCC on a softball scholarship. “But I knew I needed more training before getting into Division 1.”
Another factor in Smith’s decision was TCC’s track record for advancing student athletes. After researching past players at TCC, she saw that a good number of them went on to play for Division 1 schools.
“That showed me that TCC had a good relationship with the larger schools,” she said. “And I would say that’s consistent—TCC has these good relationships across the board, throughout all their athletic programs. You can see that it’s important to them.”
TCC’s record held up for Smith: after graduating from TCC, she attended the University of Central Florida, playing for the school’s softball team while earning her bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
Smith was grateful to TCC’s coaching staff for helping her develop not only as an athlete, but also as a community member. Coaches encouraged their athletes to get involved in community service projects, and team members volunteered regularly at the Gretchen Everhart School in Tallahassee, assisting students with disabilities.
After graduating from UCF in 2010, Smith moved back to Marianna and worked as a public school teacher. In 2013, she was named program manager for Take Stock in Children at Chipola College. Take Stock in Children is a scholarship and mentoring program that serves low-income students whose home or family situations might hinder them from graduating from high school. The program provides students with a mentor to help them stay on track in high school and offers them a scholarship to attend Chipola after graduating.
It is clear that Smith’s work with Take Stock in Children is informed by the mentorship she received from her coaches at TCC, as well as the work she and her teammates were encouraged to do in the community.
“The coaching staff I had—they definitely had a passion for what they do, and it’s not just about softball,” she said. “It’s about helping develop their athletes to become leaders; they saw beyond what softball was and taught a lot of life lessons. That was always apparent, and they’re still mentors to me, to this day.”
NOTE: Smith is now a first grade teacher at Bonham Elementary in San Angelo, TX.