Setting Goals, Improving Lives At the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, Zabriawn Smith ’14 helps others regain a focus on their futures.
“My education prepared me to be more bold in my actions and to never remove myself from conversations, because in them, we are afforded an opportunity to integrate theories in hopes to implement more reasonable practices in our society.”
~ Zabriawn Smith ’14
When Zabriawn Smith ’14 talks about his work, there is no mistaking his passion or drive to help the people he serves create a new way forward for themselves. As a public ally AmeriCorps member, Smith was placed at the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh and serves as the outreach and alumni coordinator. Trade Institute of Pittsburgh trains skilled tradespeople — specifically targeting those with a carceral history — in the areas of general laboring, brick and block masonry, carpentry, stonework and welding. The benefits are two-fold — the institute helps meet rising demands for tradespeople while assisting students in regaining focus on their futures to cut a new and better path. Smith’s job is to cultivate an alumni network that assists graduates in gaining access to career opportunities within the community as well as partner with organizations to develop programs that enrich the current student experience.
“My favorite part of my position is that I am able to come in and not only witness true change within the students, but I am also able to facilitate those changes through the work I contribute as part of the front office team,” he said. “On the surface it may seem like a workforce development program, but it is more of an establishment promoting a healthy well-being.”
Smith grew up in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, a city located in the western greater Pittsburgh area, and is happy to serve his home community. He even knows some of the students with whom he works. Montez Jones, a soon-to-be-graduate, grew up with Smith. “My mother was his teacher in elementary school,” he said.
Prior to joining AmeriCorps and working at Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, Smith was an elementary school teacher in Kentucky and said that as a young alumnus, he has tried to find the right balance between trying new positions to gain experience and sticking too firmly to a set career path. Now, he believes he has learned how to determine if a position will fulfill his passion to serve his community while encouraging professional growth. At Washington and Lee, he learned the value of having the courage to speak up and contribute his own thoughts and ideas to discussions. “My education prepared me to be more bold in my actions and to never remove myself from conversations, because in them, we are afforded an opportunity to integrate theories in hopes to implement more reasonable practices in our society,” Smith said.
In his current position and in his role as a teacher, he noted that he has employed many skills, including critical thinking, which he honed from spending time in the classroom with others who had different opinions and perspectives. Learning how to hear people, appreciate their perspective and be able to voice his own to encourage discussion has been an invaluable tool. “No matter where you go, team building is the difference between failure and success in this climate of changing demographics,” he said. “Learning what motivates others as well as yourself is your best way to ensure not only that you are an effective member of a team, but it also puts you in the best position to be a leader.”