Woman2Woman with host Kym Sellers airs every Sunday morning at 6:30a. This rewind of W2W features the what we would call a DYNAMIC woman, but this woman would refer to herself as PURPOSEFUL. Her purpose is to lead, uplift and make change in our community. Learn how it is possible to come from humble beginings to receive not only an associates degree but your PHD., how it is possible to will yourself from public assistance to CEO of not one but several agencies, to lead not only a family but a village. The cloth that our very own Kym Sellers was cut….My discriptor PHENOMENAL…Dr. Daisy Alford Smith….CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN
The grandmother of 14 (shared with second husband Kenneth Smith) is quickly making her mark through a series of programs aimed at helping girls develop a strong sense of self, healthy relationships and leadership abilities.
Alford-Smith left retirement about a year ago to become the North East CEO at a particularly tumultuous time in Girl Scouts history. As part of a nationwide effort, the state organization is in the midst of a radical restructuring that will compact 13 Ohio councils into three by Jan. 1. In Northeast Ohio, five councils have merged into one.
“It’s a new era for Girl Scouts, a re-imaging of what we’ve always been doing,” said Alford-Smith, who found that you don’t have to love to camp to be a Girl Scout. (See accompanying story.) She is bent on helping her revamped organization produce the leaders of tomorrow.
Alford-Smith’s impressive resume includes heading the Summit County Department of Job and Family Services and the Cleveland Department of Public Health. She has been the deputy director of the Ohio Department of Human Services and an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University. She finds a new, personal challenge in her current job.
“People ask why I am at Girl Scouts,” she said. “I’m here because I want to help another Daisy.”
The groundwork for all these achievements was laid in her childhood, when she helped her parents manage a large family that included two sets of twins.
Alford-Smith regularly took the bus to downtown Sharon to pay the water and electric bills. On the way home, she’d stop at the store, then haul groceries home in a taxi. Her father had a good job, but as Alford-Smith says, “the problem with being a steelworker is that you work one year and are on strike the next.”
By 10 years old, she says, she felt like a grown-up.
Alford-Smith never considered college, though her grades were mostly A’s and B’s. Her teachers instead steered her toward the vocational classes that might land a secretarial job.
“It wasn’t because of color; it was because of class, I think,” said Alford-Smith, who grew up in public housing.
She took shorthand and typing classes at Farrell High School. After graduation, she took a nurse’s aid job at Sharon General Hospital. But Alford-Smith didn’t like the drab, gray uniform. She wanted a registered nurse’s crisp white one.
To get into nursing school, she’d have to make up the chemistry, algebra and foreign language credits she lacked. Her old guidance counselor had never had such a request, but granted Alford-Smith’s. She re-enrolled in high school, taking classes during the day for a year, while working a 3-11 p.m. shift at the hospital.
Three nursing schools accepted her after she took the classes. She chose Montefiore Hospital School of Nursing in Pittsburgh and drove there in the car she had bought with her earnings.
During the entrance interview, the Montefiore admissions officer wondered aloud how Alford-Smith intended to pay for school.
No worries there — along with money for the car, Alford-Smith had saved enough for her first year’s tuition and expenses.
The admissions officer looked up in amazement after she read the future student’s transcripts and employment references from her hard-working year. “I can still see her face,” said Alford-Smith. “When I think about it, I get teary.”
Impressed with her drive, they found a scholarship for Alford-Smith. Room and board, uniforms, books — everything was paid for.
She was class president every year of her three at Montefiore. She went on to get a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a master’s degree in education and a doctorate in urban education and health policy. “I just became hungry for education,” said Alford-Smith.
Among her professional accomplishments, Alford-Smith said she is proud that she was able to lead the successful reorganization of the Summit County Department of Job & Family Services, a department she described as being “in disarray and in need of leadership.” She was hired as director in 1998, 18 months into a 36-month time limit to comply with welfare reform mandates. Her department made the deadline.
What makes her so driven to succeed? Self-confidence.
“She wakes up running,” said Arnold Pinkney, longtime family friend and political and management consultant in Cleveland.
Pinkney refers to his friend as one of the most responsible — and organized — persons he knows. “When Dr. Alford-Smith takes something on, she does not procrastinate. She has tremendous confidence that she can do anything she sets out to do. That is one of the reasons why she has success with every assignment.”
Alford-Smith, a friendly, down-to-earth CEO who greets new acquaintances with a hug, said the key to success for Girl Scouts will be attracting more girls to join and stay.
Her organization ought to be where girls are, she thinks.
“Maybe we should have a meeting room in a mall.” Then she laughed, delighted with her newest idea. “Why not?”