CLEARWATER, Fla. — Graduation season is historic for Alicia Smith.
Smith, who will graduate from Clearwater High School this month, is the first person in her family to attend college. United Way Suncoast helped Smith, through its program Operation Graduate.
“When I first started coming here in the 6th grade, it was more of like a small program, a couple of people. And then, I guess through word-of-mouth, it grew. We added more things on to it. It started as homework, and it became field trips, let’s do educational opportunities,” Smith said.
The United Way Suncoast program partners with the Pinellas School District, St. Petersburg College and Clearwater Police Department. It has been around 10 years.
Every student enrolled in the program has graduated from high school. United Way has a dual enrollment program that allows students to earn college credit while in high school.
Because of it, Smith already has an associate degree from St. Pete College. In the fall, Smith will be a junior at the University of South Florida.
The program helped Smith secure enough scholarships to graduate from USF without debt.
Smith wants to be a pediatrician.