Stephen A. Smith does not give a damn what you think, especially when it comes to his alma mater, Winston-Salem State University. He’s going to rep it no matter what. Whether that’s on his podcast, The Stephen A. Smith Show, or his daily debate show, First Take.
That mindset will continue next week when he takes his popular ESPN show on the road to Winston-Salem State University and Savannah State University (Shannon Sharpe’s alma mater) on Monday, Nov. 6, and Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Whatever your thoughts are about the polarizing TV sports personality, Smith is always looking for ways to help and spotlight HBCUs across the country, not just his own. Hence why First Take is also going to Shannon Sharpe’s alma mater in Savannah, GA.
But Smith isn’t just going to North Carolina and Georgia to put on a show and leave, he’s looking to give students an experience they’ll never forget.
“I’m going to do what I always do, talk to the students and give them some insight on what the industry expects from them and what challenges lie in wait,” said Smith. “Certainly money and time matter, but what are you doing to prepare them [the students] for the future? That’s really what it comes down to. When you don’t talk to students about that, it’s problematic.”
Stephen A. Smith’s message is not just for students currently attending HBCUs, it’s for students who are still making their college decision and are weary of attending a predominantly Black institution with the fear that they may not be open to the same opportunities as students who attend a PWI.
“On the surface that’s a legitimate concern,” said Smith. “But it’s only a concern because you’re talking about the school making you instead of you making the most of the opportunity no matter the school you go to.”
He continued, “If you’re committed to making the most of the opportunities that come your way, and you’re about pounding the pavement and putting forth your due diligence, you’re less worried about that than you normally would be. The reality is that the level of personal relationships you’re able to cultivate with professors, with other students, and the internships that you acquire is not about the school. That’s about you. What are you willing to do to stand out and not just be another name?”
The commitment to share knowledge and resources extends beyond a visit to his Alma mater, Smith recently participated in the Nike Yardrunners Campaign, a platform to highlight HBCU students and alumni.
Smith plans to donate all his earnings from the campaign to the Winston-Salem athletic department. Next week, he also plans to donate another $25,000 to $30,000, bringing his total donations toward the university for the year up to $100,000.
When asked how attending an HBCU helps the Black community as a whole, Smith said, “Everybody’s going to think about themselves, that’ll never change. What’s wrong is if you never think beyond just yourself. When you’re in the right environment surrounded by people who never forget about their community, that’s a source of inspiration. As you cultivate relationships, what you do isn’t just about you anymore, it’s about them.”
He continued, “ I know that as I pursue and ultimately capture these things that I want, so near so dearly, I’m not going to forget others from my community, I’m not going to negate doing what I can to uplift those amongst us, in our community, I’m going to have a greater vision than just myself, it doesn’t mean I’m forgetting about myself along the way, it means I’m not limiting myself to me.”
It’s a message Stephen A. Smith is living by in his professional career as he continues to give back to the University that helped him become the star he is today.