What does it take for a young person to stick with it through college graduation? We decided to ask a few of our most recent college grads — who took different paths through college, at different institutions — about their journeys through college. Read an interview with Ratasha Smith below, and click here to connect with stories of other Common Ground alumni. 

Ratasha SmithWhere did you go to school? What did you study? What’s one experience you had during college that really stood out?

I went to school first at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, NC and finished up at Southern Connecticut State University. I have always been a journalism major, but political science was my focus only at SCSU. My internship at City Hall is an experience that really stood out to me because it was the jumping off point for my career. It allowed me to gain experience while allowing me to network with some key players in the city of New Haven.

Do you have other family members who have gone to college and graduated college? How did that impact your experience?

I was raised by my aunt, Carolyn Smith-Stewart, and she went to both college and law school and while she instilled the importance of college in me, I have also witnessed her struggles and I have learned college alone will not carry you. I have found that networking is a major and it can help you go far in your career.

What were the main obstacles you faced in getting to college graduation?

Money was a big issue for me in college, but my money issues lie on me. If I had done what I was supposed to do in the time I was supposed to do it, I wouldn’t have had money problems. But, like many college kids I wasn’t prepared for college as much as I would have liked to be, and therefore my grades suffered my first year.

Who and what helped you stick in school?

I didn’t really get serious about school until I had my son Jayden; at that point I had to do better not just for myself but for him as well. I had taken a couple of years off when trying to find the money to return and I realized without a degree I wouldn’t make it very far. So for me, school was the best option.

What experiences at Common Ground helped you succeed in college?

Common Ground has a great support system and has been a great support system for me. From my years there to now, they have always applauded my accomplishments and been an active participant in helping me reach my goals.

What advice do you have for other Common Ground grads who are struggling to stick in school?

My advice to other grads is stick with it if you are dedicated or get out early if you are not. I understand that college is not for everyone, so there is no point of wasting money and racking up loans if you are not going to finish it. I urge those who are not sure about what they want to do to explore other options like a trade school and maybe even take some time off and then decide if they want to continue. Personally, time away from school really made me appreciate it more, return, and finish.

What are you up to post-graduation? What’s next for you?

I just recently started at the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven as a communications officer. I am loving it so far. It is a perfect mix of everything I learned in undergrad. As far as what is next for me, I would like to explore the world of philanthropy a little more. I would like to take up a leadership position in the city of New Haven but I have yet to really find my where my interests lie. I have been zeroing in on millennials and I know I want to kind of guide those of my generation to where they are supposed to be, so whether if it is job placement or drafting a resume or whatever; I want to be of some help.