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Inspired by the Late Georgia Beasley, Beasley Scholarship Recipient Now Inspires Others

Ms. Georgia Beasley told a gathering of her admirers at the African American Cultural and Resource Center in the fall of 2004, “You are an example for someone else coming along.” Leisan Smith was listening.

Date: 5/22/2006
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Dottie Stover
UC ingot Georgia Elizabeth Beasley’s life was celebrated at the African American Cultural and Resource Center in the fall of 2004. At that “Queen Mother” celebration, Beasley gave the audience some advice.

“You are an example for someone else coming along,” she said. “You have that responsibility to future generations and that opportunity.” One person in the room that day — Leisan Smith — had already taken Beasley’s advice, thanks to the “Georgia E. Beasley” scholarship at UC, which Beasley’s cousin had established. 

Ms. Georgia Elizabeth Beasley graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1925 with a bachelor’s degree in home economics. She was one of the first handful of African Americans to graduate from UC. Beasley went on to Columbia University in New York and earned her master’s in art education. She won the Cincinnati Arts Consortium’s Dreamkeeper Award and Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. In Beasley’s honor, her cousin established the “Georgia E. Beasley” scholarship at UC. Beasley died Feb. 15, 2005, at the age of 101.

Ms. Georgia E. Beasley at her celebration in fall of 2004.
Ms. Georgia E. Beasley at her celebration in fall of 2004.

Beasley taught art for many, many years and enjoyed interacting with her students. Besides her special relationship with her students over the years, Beasley also forged special relationships with nationally renowned artists and musicians. Beasley was herself a talented singer and accompanist.

 

Leisan Smith thanks Georgia Beasley for being an excellent example.
Leisan Smith thanks Georgia Beasley for being an excellent example.

Recipient of the Beasley scholarship, Leisan Smith, now a vice principal of a charter school, told the crowd how Beasley inspired her to receive a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in education for herself. After the ceremonies, Smith commented that she was deeply motivated by just knowing about what Beasley had gone through, and how she was able to go to the University of Cincinnati and come out with a degree in the era she lived in.

“And looking at how we don’t have it as bad now that was definitely something that stayed in my mind to keep me moving forward toward my degree,” says Smith. Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s in education in educational foundations, both from UC.

"I grew up knowing that I would go to college," Smith says. "As I was preparing to go to college, my parents decided that they would need to take out a loan and so would I in order to help with tuition. My parents said I was not allowed to work during my first year."

From the start of Smith's college career, she was connected to UC's African American Cultural & Research Center (AACRC). She was also involved in the BASE (Brothers And Sisters Excelling) Program, and in the AACRC Choir. P. Eric Abercrumbie, director of Ethnic Programs & Services, told Smith that she had been selected to receive the Georgia E. Beasley Scholarship.

"The scholarship would begin spring quarter, and would pay for the rest of my undergraduate years at UC. I was shocked," says Smith.  "This would mean no more loans and it meant that it wouldn't be such a hardship when my younger sister left for college the following year."

Leisan Smith hopes to motivate others to pursue their academic degrees.
Leisan Smith hopes to motivate others to pursue their academic degrees.

"When I was presented with the scholarship, and had the chance to actually meet and hear the story of Ms. Georgia Beasley, I was truly touched. I knew from that moment on that if she could get through UC and be successful, that I too could do the same thing," Smith says. "Every time I heard her speak, she talked about the importance of education. I try to remember that in everything that I do."

Smith is now the assistant administrator for Life Skills Center of Cincinnati, a public charter school geared toward students between the ages of 16 and 22. The school is computer based.

“We have several teachers and IAs [instructional aides] in each class to assist the students in achieving their degrees,” Smith adds. Life Skills Centers are alternative, community-based charter schools that enable students to earn their high school diplomas tuition free, beginning at their individual educational development level and proceeding at their own pace. The Life Skills Center of Cincinnati has just under 400 students in grades 9 through 12. It opened in January 2003 at 2612 Gilbert Avenue in Cincinnati. The Gilbert location was the second Life Skills Center school to open in the Cincinnati area.

The Life Skills Center of Cincinnati is in its seventh year on Gilbert Avenue.
The Life Skills Center of Cincinnati is in its seventh year on Gilbert Avenue.

“It gives students another opportunity to go back to high school who may not have done too well at their first high school,” says Smith. The Life Skills Centers are public schools that target high school kids who have either dropped out or are at risk for dropping out. However, unlike traditional public high school students, Life Skills Centers students have the flexibility to select one of several different schedules to achieve the requisite educational 21 high school credits and to pass the Ohio Proficiency tests. Such flexible scheduling allows students to fulfill family and/or work obligations while also attending school. In addition to regular academic achievement, students attending a Life Skills Center receive job training and job placement. Graduates earn high school diplomas — not GEDs.

"LSC's have helped nearly 4,700 students enhance their lives by earning a state-recognized high school diploma and a job," says Smith. "Our Center currently has about 580 students enrolled and we enroll new students on a weekly basis." 

Smith discusses a favorite book with Life Skills student Janay Morgan.
Smith discusses a favorite book with Life Skills student Janay Morgan.

Smith wants to help others just as she was helped. “In my career and in my community service organizations I want to make a difference in any way that that might be whether in a small amount or on a larger scale.”

More information on Georgia E. Beasley


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