Registered nurse returns to college at MSU-Meridian to answer 'calling' in special education

Contact: Lisa SollieEmily Smith, Outstanding Undergraduate student in the Division of Education at MSU-Meridian

MERIDIAN, Miss.— Emily Smith of Meridian began a career in nursing a decade ago, the DeKalb native changed career paths and this week is being recognized at Mississippi State University-Meridian's fall commencement program as the Division of Education’s Outstanding Undergraduate student.

Smith had only considered nursing when she earned her nursing degree from Jones College, then Jones County Junior College. Her career path began to shift in 2013, however, when her one-year old son Dawson was diagnosed with Adenosine Deaminase Deficiency, an inherited disorder that damages the immune system.

Undergoing two bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy, Dawson's immune system was declared ‘clear,’ but Smith and her husband, Mike began to noticing he was experiencing some developmental delays.  He later was determined to be on the autism spectrum.

Trying without much success to work with her son at home, Smith began taking special education classes at MSU-Meridian to learn new techniques and strategies to teach him. This was the catalyst in her decision to pursue a degree in special education.

“I really enjoyed attending MSU-Meridian,” Smith said. “I liked the atmosphere and small class size and the convenience, which enabled me to go to school, continue to work, and still have time to take care of my family. My instructors were also top-notc, and I felt well-prepared for my student internship this past semester at Enterprise School District.”

Smith also credits her husband for encouraging her when she began her pursuit of a new profession.

“I had a great nursing career, and I still like it, but I feel that special education is my passion,” she said. “I would never have been able to start or finish this journey without my husband’s support. He, along with the help of both of our families, made it possible for me to achieve what I felt God was calling me to do.”

Smith said when she looks at her son, now 6-years-old, doing well and making strides every day, she does not see a child with a disability.

“He really is just like any other child – only he communicates and experiences his surroundings in a different way than you or I,” she said.  “I believe every child, whether they have a disability or not, wants the same thing we all do; and that’s to be loved and accepted just the way they are.”

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