Hard conversations don’t stop her. In fact, LaTrece Smith encourages them. And whether students start the dialogue or adults do the talking, what matters most to LaTrece is that the clients are heard and understood from their life experiences. That’s why, when she accepted the role as the agency’s second Racial Equity Coordinator – a role that was created at the agency in 2018 – she started out by asking the Leadership Team some tough questions. She wanted to understand what her boss and colleagues thought about race, about the impact race has had on each person individually, on an agency level, and in society. Her candor and understanding made the conversations easier, but they were also difficult. It’s not always comfortable discussing a topic charged with so many varying perspectives and experiences. But it’s necessary.
After working 12 years in corporate retail, LaTrece, who has a B.S. in economics and humanities and an MBA, pivoted to a new purpose. One that was “in her being.” In 2014, she enrolled in Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis to earn her master’s in social work. As one of only a few Black woman in the program at the time, LaTrece understands why it is so important for more people of color to be therapists. In fact, it has been reported nationwide, that of the people who work in mental-health careers, 83% are White, and 3% are People of Color. Hear LaTrece and her boss, Executive Director Tom Duff, LCSW, MSW, discuss what it’s like to be a Black female social worker, and how Black and Brown students would benefit from having counselors who understand what it means to live life as marginalized.