YWCA Canton CEO Shana Smith shares her backstory, favorites in Stark County

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YWCA Canton CEO Shana Smith shares her backstory, favorites in Stark County

Categories: News

CANTON, January 7, 2022

Shana Smith never really shared her life’s backstory with others until she arrived at the YWCA Canton.

As the YWCA’s new chief executive officer in December 2020, she began to see how sharing her story helped her relate to her coworkers and the people using the nonprofit organization’s early childcare and education services or its housing programs.

“A lot of times, folks evaluate you based on where they see you now,” Smith said. “They don’t know the struggle.”

A look at Smith’s educational and work history highlights her successes. The 1991 Timken High School graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Kent State University, a master of business from Ashland University and is working toward a doctor of education in leadership studies at Ashland University.

She began her career in education at Passages School, a high school for students facing possible expulsion, and helped create Choices High School, which opened in the fall of 2000 to give struggling students in Canton City, Jackson, Lake, North Canton and Plain school districts a way to earn a high school diploma in a format more flexible than traditional school.

While working at The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton, Smith helped to expand the foundation’s SPARK — Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids — initiative, which aims to help families prepare their children for kindergarten. As an administrator for Canton City Schools, she significantly expanded the district’s after-school programs and brought in free vision and dental screenings for students.

She also has served on the boards of Leadership Stark County, Homeless Continuum of Care, Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health, YMCA of Meyers Lake and the Ohio Optometric Foundation.

What Smith’s resume doesn’t show is how she was raised by a single mother after her dad died when she was 3 years old. Smith watched her mother, whom she calls her rock and best friend, raise four children, while persevering through multiple jobs. Smith also saw her mother prioritize education and earn a college degree.

After her own divorce, Smith found herself in a similar situation. She spent several years raising her two daughters as a single mother while also working and taking college classes. Her financial situation forced her to move her family back home with her mother until she could re-establish herself.

“I appreciate every hardship and every experience I’ve encountered because it developed compassion in me,” said Smith, now mother to Dayanna Worley, 24, Amya Worley, 21, and DeMarlo Rozier Jr., 11. “So I can serve with compassion not because I have arrived but because I’ve been there, maybe not to their extent but to some extent.”

Smith said her experiences have motivated her to find ways to expand some of the YWCA’s core services. Smith wants to expand the YWCA’s school enrollment from its current 60 students to at least 100 students. She also wants to expand the services the agency provides to people using its housing services so that they feel supported and treated with dignity and respect.

“In hindsight, now that I’m in this role, I feel like all of those collective experiences have prepared me to some extent,” Smith said. “I can see how those experiences have served me well in order to be of service to the community as the leader of the YWCA.”

Shana Smith’s local favorites:

Favorite restaurant: Gervasi Vineyard. “I love being able to walk the grounds, the different restaurant options available, and I love live music.”

Favorite thing to do: “I enjoy walking the trails through our community. … It’s very simple and very quiet. It doesn’t cost anything, and it allows me to connect with nature.”

Most admired CEO: Joni Close, president of Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton. “Because of her strength, because of her commitment to the mission of the foundation and because she has never wavered. She has been committed to the issues of early childhood for as long as I have known her, and I respect that. …  She always has been serving the less fortunate, always committed to serving children and leveraging dollars and building up the capacity of local nonprofit organizations. When I think back on leadership and how they always say strong leaders develop others leaders, that’s Joni.”

Favorite lunch spot: Basil Asian Bistro. “They should know me by name. It’s convenient. Whenever I want to meet someone for lunch, I meet there.” Her favorite dish is Pad Thai.

Favorite local spot to grab a drink: Healthies. “They have all kinds of protein drinks. I like coconut cream pie in the summer.”

Favorite coffee shop: Muggswigz Coffee & Tea. “Sometimes I will meet folks there as a change of pace. Some of my directors will have meetings informally over coffee at that location.” One of her favorite drinks is the pumpkin pie latte.

Favorite local event: Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Canton Repository Grand Parade. “I have loved it ever since I was a little girl. I love the traditions around preparing for the parade. I’ve carried that tradition on with my three children.”

Favorite theater: Canton Palace Theatre. “It’s the center of our community. I love the architecture. I was always fascinated as a child when lights would go out and I could see the twinkling lights.”

Favorite volunteer opportunity: “Recently, I had the opportunity to serve as one of three judges in the Louisville Constitution Queen Pageant. That was my first exposure to the process, and I absolutely loved it. It was hard to evaluate the girls because they all were so talented. They presented so well. That was an eye-opening experience; one that was very welcome. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did.


Article from Canton Repository. Click here to view.