ABC30 honoring veteran, mentor and clinical psychologist Dr. Arrie Smith

ByAurora Diaz KFSN logo
Friday, February 10, 2023
Dr. Arrie Smith honored as local trailblazer
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The African American Historical and Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley hosts its annual Black History Month Celebration to honor the unsung voices of African Americans in the Central Valley.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- ABC30 honors veteran, mentor and clinical psychologist Dr. Arrie Smith during Black History Month for her commitment to students and the community.

It's not unusual for Dr. Arrie Smith to email, text or stop students on the Fresno City College campus.

"Did you fill out those forms?" she asks one of her students walking by. She wants to make sure they are ready for academic success.

Smith is a counselor in EOPS or Extended Opportunity Programs and Services, providing students access to counseling, support services and enhancing student retention.

Dr. Smith says FCC experienced a 33% drop in enrollment among African American students during the pandemic.

"So one thing is addressing the fear of the unknown, and for our students, we need to remember that as they go through school and get their grades, perhaps a failing grade is not indicative of their ability. It definitely isn't necessarily indicative of their intelligence. They are affected by many different external factors, some of which may be food or housing. You also have psychosocial issues going on. Many of our students, specifically in EOPS, are first generation, so they don't have guidance from those who came before them to know what to expect."

Smith created the program at Fresno City College called Harambee. Harambee is a Swahili word that is part of Kenya's national language.

Smith says, "It means all pull together, and for us to be successful and effectively service our students, everyone needs to be involved. When I say everyone, I mean the community, students, teachers, faculty, staff, and everyone pulling together, can help support our students and help make them successful. The major thing is helping them reach their academic goals."

Dr. Smith did outreach, speaking at local churches and encouraging students to come back to campus and join the Harambee program. Shalom Welch saw her speak at his church. He was struggling with his grades and worked closely with Dr. Smith.

"I went from around a 2.6 average to a 3.5 and made Dean's List this last semester," said Welch.

"She's going to help you no matter what she has to do," he adds.

Getting the job done is part of Dr. Arrie Smith's mission. She served in the marines and was stationed at Naval Air Station, Lemoore, teaching about electrical systems for F-18s.

"One thing about the Marine Corps is it's a band of brothers, and it's taking care of each other. So there's a certain selflessness, and there's also a drive to reach a goal. And so we said, first of all, you were instilled a set of ethics, a strong work ethic, and a drive to accomplish the mission. So when given the mission of helping students, do the best you can, and you have to look at everything holistically, looking at the whole thing, not just that one little spot, and you do what it takes to get the job done," said Smith.

Welch has a part-time job with Harambee and is scheduled to graduate in May. He is thinking about a career with the FBI.

"I receive a call from her at least every other day. She's really a light at the end of the tunnel," said Welch.

Dr. Smith will be honored for her work at the Trailblazers Black History Month program benefiting the African American Historical and Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley.

Get ticket information here.

Dr. Arrie Smith biography:

Arrie Smith, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist, Professor at CSPP/AIU and Counselor/Creator for the FCC EOPS/Harambee Program, a strengths-based program for African American (AA) students encouraging community involvement. Dr. Smith spearheaded the FCC Men of Color Mentoring Project - The Brotherhood: Empowering AA Males Toward Excellence. This program is designed to assist students with mapping academic, personal and professional goals, developing leadership skills and increasing their capacity for success. She was also cofounder of the EOPS Nickel & Nail Scholars, a program addressing the needs of students on academic/progress/program probation.

Dr. Smith is involved nationally and locally in California's efforts to enhance the quality of life and empowering people of African ancestry through advocacy, service delivery and research. She is actively involved in educating on and researching issues such as mental health, mortality patterns and suicide prevention efforts in the AA/Black Community. She worked in Fresno County Behavioral Health, emergency psychiatric services, substance abuse and co-occurring disorder treatment settings for over 20 years. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, she holds Bachelor Degrees in Psychology & African American Studies, Master's Degrees in Counseling Psychology & Public Administration and a PhD in Clinical Psychology. She is currently President of the Fresno Chapter and California Association of Black Social Workers and FCC African American Faculty & Staff Association.