JA Alumni Feature Story: Gabbe’ Smith


Gabbe' Smith Headshot

Gabrielle (Gabbe’) Smith is a seasoned executive coach, leadership & development trainer and corporate culture & citizenship officer. She helps others realize their professional potentials and guides them as they develop and level up their leadership abilities. She is not merely a change agent but rather a growth, progression and resilience agent. She is a motivational speaker, master trainer and has penned a few books with some phenomenal businesswomen who refuse to accept the status quo. She holds advance degrees in the fields of Psychology, Counseling, Social Work and specialties in behavioral health and business. Avoid her at all cost if you find comfort in ruts and roads to nowhere because before you know it, you will be focused, performing and producing. She has been an “accidental” entrepreneur for more than 25 years and has served as a consultant to a plethora of leaders, organizations and businesses across various industries.

Q: Where did you grow up?

I was born in Alabama and lived on the Gulf Coast. I like to say that I grew up (where I matured and got my best life lessons) in many places-Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Great Britain, Chicago and the lists goes on and on. Yes, there is a story for every place.

Q: What do you remember from JA? How did it impact your life?

I remember joining JA in middle school. It was a memorable time for me and a time of discovery. I was involved with my local chapter for years and could be found at the center several days a week. The JA office was a productive hang out for the members. At the time, JA volunteers didn't come to our schools, so it was the perfect excuse for the students to go there. We were always learning something simply by being present. The school would charter buses and bring in JA members from various counties when we had conferences and summits. Those were the best! My mom’s station wagon was the bus for my JA chapter!

When I started JA, I learned budgeting. I loved (and still love) math and numbers! I have to say that I was actually really good! I even remember being asked countless times --- "You’re a girl, how can YOU do math?" This was never my experience at JA. They embraced and further cultivated this love and skill with the stellar curriculum. At JA, there were all kinds of workbooks and worksheets. Students would be given examples and different business scenarios to work through. There was a lot of problem solving much like the JA experience today. Learning all of those things became a cornerstone in the foundation of my success!

Gabbe Smith Child

Q: Has the JA curriculum been applicable in your life?

I am a first generation college graduate and a lot of this was because of JA-remember, career and choices. College was more possible for me! I excelled in math and science, and I was quite focused on where I wanted to attend college! Plus, I knew what I wanted to do. I attended college fairs on the weekend and learned that I needed funding for college. Every Monday, I would meet with my school counselor for advice on the steps that I needed to take. I learned about financial aid and how to search for further funding. Oh, did I mention that the internet did not exist?! The public library was the internet (I think that they may have had the chair and desk that I used in the Reference Room bronzed!). I could be found there at least five days a week. The Reference Room is also where the annual financial aid forms (yes, paper) were found. As I began completing a draft of the form, I saw that it required my parent’s tax information. Since my mom had not filled out that year’s tax returns, I asked her if she would allow me to do them. She quickly said yes, handed over the W-2, reviewed my work, signed on the dotted line and dropped both forms in the mail on her way to work the next day.

I realized I was applying JA work in the most practical way! Filling out this type of information was not foreign to me because I had done it before! In JA, we were constantly doing some kind of budget, activity or case study. Part of it was learning where to find the resources you needed to get the answers. This knowledge just became a part of me, and it was all because of the skills that I had learned through JA.

A couple of months later I received acceptance letters from my top two college choices and information about the financial aid. My JA knowledge literally took me to college. JA not only fortified my personal confidence, but it also established my professional confidence! I was hooked!

My parents taught me the value and dignity of work. I started making money at an early age. As I got older and planned my college journey, I elevated my work experience, and thus, my pay. I wanted to decorate my future dorm room, and I was determined to do it on my own. I would budget for things, and I would also save money. My mom helped me get an account at our local credit union. I already knew how to write and balance a check book because of JA. I also learned tolerance for ambiguity too. For me, that meant learning to be okay with not knowing or having all the pieces. I learned the skill of how to go out and find the missing information that I needed.

The start of my JA career in middle school attributed to my having been an entrepreneur since the age of 13, obtaining multiple degree and certifications, becoming a college professor, consultant and thought leader.

Overall, I learned entrepreneurship, personal information management, and leadership skills from JA!

Thanks JA!

In Honor of Thank A Mentor Month

Q: Looking back, why do you think it’s important to be a mentor or volunteer to the next generation?

It is important to be a mentor to the next generation because mentoring provides both a road map and a treasure map to the future. Mentoring is helping to chart the next generations’ course. Not only to give them a course but to help chart the course for which THEY are destined!

Q: What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering with JA?

Do it! Everyone has something to offer and volunteering for JA provides a platform to both contribute and compound that “something” that you offer. If you want to grow it, sow it!

Q: Did JA help influence your career choice?

JA did not influence my specific career choice, but it instilled in me the knowledge and belief that I could have a career and that having a career would create choices.