‘I just felt like Georgetown was going to be home’

Photo of Jerome Smalls

Through THE FEED, we get to share with you not only the latest news on access and affordability in higher education, but also the groundbreaking programs and extraordinary people shaping our Georgetown community as we strive to become the university we are called to be.

This week, we highlight Jerome Smalls (B’19, G’22) as he reflects on how the Georgetown community helped him channel his ambitions and define his own calling as an educator. 

A scholarship recipient and first-generation college graduate, Smalls is the Special Assistant to the Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, for Special Projects. He is also the author of Small Talk: One Youth. Seven Stories. Countless Lessons., a coming-of-age story that offers young people advice on overcoming obstacles, as well as the founder of SmallTalk Group LLC, a motivational group dedicated to empowering students and educators through storytelling and cultural competency. 

During his time at Georgetown, Smalls participated in the Georgetown Scholars Program and Community Scholars Program, received the 2018 Lena Landegger Community Service Award, won the 2019 Georgetown McDonough Service Leadership Award, and was a Patrick Healy Fellow

After graduating in 2019 from Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business with his bachelor’s in Marketing and a minor in African American Studies, Smalls completed Georgetown’s master’s program in Education Transformation. During that time, he helped lead The Pivotal Network, a Georgetown-driven initiative that provides professional development opportunities for “pivotal educators”—high school teachers in underserved communities who play a crucial role in shaping the trajectories of first-generation students. 

FEED: Tell us about your decision to attend Georgetown—what brought you to the Hilltop?

Smalls: I knew that I wanted to go to school to study business, but being that I was the first person in my family to go to college and was also from a low-income background, I didn’t have much prior knowledge of the college application process. So I was grateful to have a pivotal educator in my life—my high school engineering teacher—who sat down with me and helped me look at all the schools.

I went to acceptance weekend, or Georgetown Admissions Ambassador Program (GAAP) weekend, and I just felt like Georgetown was going to be home. 

The opportunity to participate in the Community Scholars Program was really the icing on the cake for me. The Community Scholars Program enticed me because we were able to start school early, take some classes, and warm up to this level of a top-tier university. I accepted the offer to come to Georgetown, and the first day of CSP I felt like, ‘Okay, cool, I could really be myself here.’

Q: Which pivotal educators or moments at Georgetown helped you realize your potential? 

A: There are what I would call high-impact practices and high-impact people throughout my time at Georgetown that shaped a lot of my identity: working for the After School kids program at the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service (CSJ); going on to revitalize a mentorship program where we got men of color at Georgetown to work with the young men at Duke Ellington Performing Arts School, in a program I started called the Male Development Association; taking Eric Koester’s book-writing class; and writing my book and sharing my story as a way of offering advice to young people from my perspective as a young person. 

Receiving The Patrick Healy Fellowship was also very influential. I also did some work with GOODProjects, which is a non-profit focused on alleviating poverty in DC started by three Georgetown alumni who played football. Those moments really shaped my identity. 

It’s been one of those journeys of coming of age or ‘coming to know,’ as Father Kemp would say.

Q: How did Georgetown support you in becoming who you are called to be?

A: Georgetown made me a reflector. I had to reflect in ways that I never did before, and then share those reflections with other people. When writing Small Talk, I evolved as a human and became so much more self-aware. Storytelling has become part of my life mission. I think the sharing of stories is what makes us human. Young Black kids aren’t given the space to understand their stories and then share their stories. They aren’t given a space to tap into that sense of humanity. 

My mission going forward is helping young people understand and share their stories, and then equipping parents, teachers, adults, and administrators to deeply listen to those stories, to appreciate those stories, and to value those stories in really humanizing ways.

I also have started a position with my hometown—the City of Charleston, South Carolina—as the Special Assistant to the Mayor for Special Projects. Mayor John Tecklenburg (C’77) is also a Georgetown alumnus. I look forward to reinvesting the educational capital that my community invested in me. Without them, I would have never been able to attend Georgetown in the first place! 

Thriving at Georgetown

As part of Georgetown’s commitment to the Jesuit value of cura personalis, or care of the whole person, the university strives to meet each students unique needs—through scholarships and support across all dimensions of learning and formation—so that they can participate fully in their college experience and discover who they are called to be. Visit our campaign website to learn more about how Georgetown is creating an environment where every student can flourish, a core commitment of Called to Be: The Campaign for Georgetown.  

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