Alumnae/i Feature

Richelle K. Smith ’21MSW Uplifts and Connects with Students as METCO Program Director

What the job entails

Richelle is the director of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) Program for Arlington Public Schools in Arlington, Massachusetts—part of one of the longest-running voluntary school-integration programs in the country. In this high-profile position, she oversees a broad range of academic and social programming that serves 72 students from Boston in grades K-12. Each day, she travels to several of the district’s six schools to meet with administration, faculty, parents, and students; support students’ educational and developmental needs; handle logistics and funding; and manage a small team that includes a social worker. She also collaborates with other district leaders to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion across the school system. Her vision for her students, she says, is that “they take advantage of every opportunity they can to become their own version of success.” 

What brought her to Simmons

A career changer with a business background, Richelle attended a School of Social Work open house. “I instantly felt connected,” she remembers. “There were Black professors, a diverse student body. I wasn’t the only Black person in the room.” She also appreciated the school’s reputation for rigor and excellence. “Simmons was the total package for me,” she says. “I left there thinking, 'This is where I need to be.'”

Simmons was the total package for me.

How Simmons prepared her

Richelle praises Simmons for developing her clinical and leadership skills but also for “immersing us in self-exploration,” she says. A former METCO student herself, she completed her first placement in the Arlington Public Schools' METCO Program. As its social work intern, she counseled students experiencing anxiety, trauma, social isolation, and depression, as well as supported students’ academic needs.

In her second year, Richelle was accepted into the federally funded Simmons Integrated Mental Health Primary Care and Clinical Training (SIMPACT) program. As part of this initiative, she interned at TechBoston Academy, where she provided individual and group counseling to students, as well as designed and led therapeutic groups on social and emotional skills. At Simmons, she gained additional experience as a Dean’s Fellow for Community Engagement and Social Justice. “I’ve never had so much opportunity to learn about who I really am,” says Richelle, who received the SSW’s Community Service Award. “Those opportunities brought me to where I am today.”

Why it’s rewarding

Inspired by her first placement and the loss of her young nephew, Richelle discovered a passion for working with youth while at Simmons. “I enjoy their energy and candidness,” she says. “I vowed to do everything I can to uplift and connect with the youth community.” Her internship with the METCO Program led to a full-time offer shortly before graduation. “I love seeing the students with smiles on their faces,” she says. “We're building a community of families and allies who share the same goal: for the student to be the best they can be.”

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