This week, I'd like to introduce you to a mentor that is near and dear to my heart. Lashandra Smith and I met early in my teenage years shortly after her and her family moved into my cul de sac back in Austell, GA. One day, it started off as just one friendly neighbor conversation when we quickly discovered that we were both apart of the dance community. I can talk about dance for days on end, so when Lashandra and I became more acquainted, you can only imagine the talks we had! I remember coming home from school to immediately walk right to her house just so that I could stand outside and talk with her for what felt like hours.
Transitioning from middle to high school was when I realized that I wanted to pursue dance training as a serious discipline. In eighth grade, I was determined to get into the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School for dance. Before then, I had only taken hip hop and jazz at a studio in Atlanta. For Pebblebrook's program, it was required that all dance majors have experience dancing en pointe. Without hesitation, I accepted this challenge, and took ballet outside of school during my Freshman year. To my surprise, Lashandra volunteered to teach me pointe on her kitchen floor a few times a week during my sophomore year. She helped me develop a strategy to get into the program that best shaped my needs, so that year I became a drama major and trained with her en pointe every week to audition for a slot into the dance program next year. I can honestly say that Lashandra has been an angel in my life. Without her, I don't know where I would've ended up in my technical training. Needless to say, I was accepted as a dance major my junior year of high school, and the rest is history...
It is with great pleasure, to introduce you to the lovely, Mrs. Lashandra Grier-Smith.
Give us a brief introduction. Who are you, what is your profession and where are you from?
Greetings! I am LaShandra Grier-Smith, wife, mother, educator, counselor, and dance instructor/choreographer. I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia in the West End and Adamsville communities. I attended Benjamin E. Mays High School (1993), the University of South Carolina-Aiken (Bachelors of Science/1997) and Georgia State University (Masters and Educational Specialist (2002/2004). I am a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc (Spring 1995/USCA/Rho Lambda).
What are some things that you're passionate about? Hobbies? - What MOVES you?!
I am passionate about family, dance, and uplifting the whole child. Dance is not my hobby, per se, but my calling. I started dancing at the age of 2 at McClendon School of Dance. I continued dancing here until the age of 17 in 1993 and returned in 1994 to dance during the summer a year into college. I started a dance company at USCA called One Accord Dance Ensemble in 1995. I am the founder and director of Total Praise Performing Ministries (from 1998-2015). I am also the founder and director of Sharing My Dreams Performing Arts (2008 - Present). What MOVES me, is being able to plant seeds of creation and positivity into the next generation.
How did you meet Jaslyn Harris, and what was your first impression of her?
Jaslyn was my neighbor from 2009 - 2015. One day, we were speaking outside and it was revealed that I danced. Jaslyn, later on, spoke about her plans to attend Pebblebrook High School, but needing instruction in pointe. I was there to help her, teaching her pointe in my living room foyer, and adopting her into my dance family and dancing programs. I was able to grant her opportunities to participate in group dance and solos. In meeting Jaslyn, I immediately knew that she was a true gem. She was always kind, mannerable, and passionate about dance. Her smile lit up a room and it was my pleasure seeding into her life.
How did your mentor/mentee relationship progress overtime?
Overtime, this mentor/mentee relationship continued to blossom in what feels like family! I have been able to come out and witness her growth as a dancer, her choreography, and her entrepreneurship. Clearly, I am proud of this young queen!
When your back is against the wall, and you feel like giving up, who or what, keeps you moving and pushing forward?
My faith in God keeps me moving and pressing on. I would be nothing without my faith.
What is one quote that you would consider to be your Mantra?
Bloom where you are planted! I live by this quote. In whatever role you are in, do it to your highest potential! Do it unto God!
Thank you so much for reading! Mrs. Lashandra has definitely planted a seed in me; one that will bloom forever! I am truly grateful to have her in my life. Not only was she my instructor; she is my motivator, my inspiration, and my friend. It was bittersweet when the both of us parted ways from that small cul de sac in Austell; but the distance could never erase the impact she has had on my life and my future endeavors. Thank you so much for all that you do and all that you continue to do for our community!
I hope you're enjoying our "Mentors that Move Me" series! Next, we'll share more about one of my mentors that has molded me both professionally and artistically, more than I could've ever imagined. Her and her organization will forever be family. Tap in next week for the big reveal!