Supporting Students’ Next Steps

March 27, 2015

UMFS Recognizes Pop Smith Scholarship Recipients


CHRIS LABRADOR AND PAUL SWITZER, two recent recipients of UMFS’ Pop Smith Scholarship, are learning, growing and overcoming the obstacles that face students with autism spectrum disorder in pursuit of higher education. UMFS honored them on January 21 at a reception celebrating the students’ successes and thanking the many donors and supporters who have helped to make the Pop Smith Scholarship possible.

Chris and Paul both participate in UMFS’ Courage to Succeed college program, designed to assist students as they progress through college, prepare for employment and, ultimately, become contributing members of their communities. Chris and Paul are doing just that—in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, they worked together
alongside members of the Pop Smith Scholarship committee to paint a Courage to Succeed classroom at UMFS’ Charterhouse School in Richmond. The scholarship program includes service projects so that students fulfill the fourth need of UMFS Circle of CourageTM methodology—generosity.

Chris’ expectations are clear: “Courage to Succeed will teach me ways to handle the stress and workload that comes with college.” Of his time as a student in Courage to Succeed, he says he is, “learning how to communicate with professors and staff, how to manage time and decide what
work to do first. These things are not just ways to be successful in college, but to be successful in life by learning how to write resumes and cover letters, professional conduct and many more things.”

“I really need [Courage to Succeed] to manage the day-to-day tasks required of me to succeed in college and in life,” adds Paul. “My sister is now enrolled in college as a full-time student, too, so having two of us in college at the same time has put an extra financial strain on my parents. I feel that I am just beginning to grow as a person both in knowledge and in self-esteem, but I still have a long way to go. I don’t want to be one of those people that fall through the cracks…I have some real friends for the first time in my life.”

1The Pop Smith Scholarship fund provides financial assistance to students who have been served by UMFS and can benefit from post-secondary education including college or vocational training. The Scholarship Fund is named for Reverend E. Leon “Pop” Smith who was the executive director of the Virginia Methodist Children’s Home, now UMFS, from 1949 to 1974. Chris and Paul both attend J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond three days per week and spend the other two days at UMFS’ Charterhouse School in Richmond where, in group and individual settings, they strengthen communication skills, develop social skills and learn to stay organized.

We’re proud of Chris and Paul, and the strides they’ve made, and we’re honored to walk alongside them as they take steps toward a bright future.