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  • Writer's pictureElaine Thompson

D’Adra Smith’s Journey from Virtual Classroom to Valedictorian


Valedictorians: the undisputed masters of achievement. Their path to attainment is paved with hard work and dedication, revealing the challenging journey of academics. Beyond it, lies victory. All the achievers you are bound to meet have one thing in common: they all utilize hard work, effective communication, and strategic thinking for the sake of success. Imagine completing an online master's degree program—a feat that demands discipline, focus, and dedication. Now, imagine going even further, defying expectations, and emerging as the esteemed Valedictorian of your graduating class. This is the awe-inspiring reality for Manager of Training & Organizational Development, D’Adra Smith, whose journey showcases the incredible heights that can be reached with determined perseverance. Although Smith’s classes were all virtual, she shows us that with enough dedication, success is inevitable.


“At the time I was taking my degree we were still amidst the pandemic but what I appreciated about my classes is that they were fully virtual,” she shares.


This style of learning was most suitable for Smith as she worked full-time as an Assistant Manager of Training & Organizational Development at one of the major banks in the Bahamas. Virtual learning gained significant popularity during the pandemic. Depending on the student’s preferred learning style, the online classroom can be an effective part of education. Here individuals battle with time and space to emerge as warriors of the retention of information.


“Of course, there were technical issues like hoping the Wi-Fi is consistently working and that the communications company doesn’t let you down.”


Smith continued to power through her online classes with Barry University despite the challenges she faced. Her degree was one connected to her current career, Training & Organizational Development. Smith wasn’t the most traditional student either.


“I graduated at 43. I was not a full-time student. I worked full time and almost every evening I would have a class.”


She shared that her mindset was crucial to her success.


“One of the larger challenges was getting back into the mind-frame of being back in school. Whenever I sign up to do classes of any kind, I must get into a particular mind frame. This includes being able to have a particular schedule, making sure you’re disciplined, making sure your communication skills are on point not only for the classes but with communicating with your lecturers to make sure you’re not missing anything and understanding fully the things that are required of you and of course the time commitment you must give.”


Despite the pandemic, Smith’s extraordinary challenges led to many iconic achievements. Her academic experience transformed everything from deepening her excitement for her craft to getting the opportunity to network with many amazing individuals who share her love for the industry. Smith was able to use her degree when she applied for the position of Manager.


“The changes that completing my degree brought for me was that it allowed me to add structure and gave me a focus. It added to the foundation that I had already built. At the time, I was the Assistant Manager and now I’m the Manager, so I was quadruple happy about that!”


She found the program enjoyable and was enthusiastic about the opportunity. Smith was able to align the program with her own career goals.


“My favorite part was the program itself and the different topics they covered. I currently work within the Training and Organizational Development space. I chose this degree because I wanted to add to the theory side and expand my knowledge in the field, I was currently in.”


Smith gave one hundred percent effort during the process and made sure she resided within the moment every step of the way.


“I was fully engaged and loved the learning. I was able to take a huge amount of what I learned and was able to apply it to my actual job. The program itself was awesome. I got the chance to network with individuals who were at varying levels in their careers. I enjoyed myself thoroughly when I took the program.”


Even though she juggled multiple responsibilities, Smith did not let anything hinder her goals.


“It started with believing that I could do it and believing that I would never give up on that goal. It was my goal to have a master’s degree. Sometimes we create goals and put them on the back burner or want to pursue something, but the timing may not be right. I had to hold onto it no matter what. Never giving up on it made this possible. Secondly, have faith in God. It gives me faith in knowing that God aligns things and trusts his timing. It also allows me to have faith in myself that I’m capable of doing this.”


Smith elevated the standard of what was expected and emerged as the top student in her set. She had but one regret.


“I really wished that I had planned better to attend my graduation. I could have traveled but didn’t plan properly, and the time came so quickly that I wished I had been more intentional about planning the attendance of my graduation. Other than that, there is nothing I would have done differently.”


She shares this advice for those hoping to follow the same career path.


“If you love this, pursue it because it is a wonderful industry. There is something fulfilling when you know that some knowledge you would have given someone has helped them improve their work or personal life. Don’t give up because the more of us who advocate for the importance of training and human resources the more that builds momentum and brings us closer to the HRD side to stand on its own merit because it’s a wonderful field.”


This Caribbean giant has unlocked the secrets to academic success. She establishes clear goals and executes strategic plans to achieve them. For Smith, failure is outnumbered and outmatched by a purpose that stands firm. She remained fully committed to her objectives, creating an impenetrable fortress of dedication that cannot be breached. Her insatiable appetite for academic success has made her the architect of an outstanding career. Her experience brought both challenge and promise but ultimately demonstrated that knowledge has become prime real estate worthy of fierce pursuit.


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