Smyrna High School Offers Diversity, Rigorous Academics
#RCSSchoolSpotlight: ‘There’s a place here for everyone’
Sherri Southerland has been in education for 25 years, and this is her fifth year as principal of Smyrna High School.
When asked what she enjoys day-to-day, the answer is simple:
“The kids. Like what you just watched. You know we have a thousand kids in the gym right now, and you can just feel the enthusiasm in the air. It’s the end of the day. It’s a Thursday and you would have thought we have a Friday night game in there,” said Southerland.
Smyrna High School is referring to a senior versus junior basketball game that is completely student-led. Students announced the game, ran the scoreboard, and organized the event. This type of scenario, Southerland said, is all part of a normal week at Smyrna High School.
“You know we’re so diverse. We have so many different cultures. Thirty-seven languages. Now we’re the seventh largest high school in the state and it’s just such a neat blend of differences. That’s why the hashtag we always use now on social media is ‘only one SHS.’ Everybody uses it in their social media. It’s kind of neat,” said Southerland.
Trevon Collins is an 18-year-old senior at Smyrna. He is described by Southerland as “the picture of what a Smyrna High scholar should be,” with numerous awards, including a nomination by the Tennessee Department of Education for the U.S. Presidential Scholars program — the nation’s highest honor for high school students.
“First of all, I would say we have a very diverse student body,” Trevon said. “Everybody is supportive of one another regardless of the department or their overall position within the school. I would say that is a major component of being a Smyrna bulldog. In the classroom we have some exceptional teachers and can’t say I’ve had a single teacher who wasn’t committed to educating us to the best of their abilities. In all the classes I’ve been in I’ve always been surrounded by people who are invested in furthering their own scholarship.
Teachers at Smyrna are committed to their students, but also to each other. Southerland explained how, from the beginning of the school year, team building is essential to success.
“We do teams at the beginning of the year. Each AP has a different team: purple, gold, white and black. Then they compete against each other all year in different events. It splits the faculty up and they get to know each other better. They are with people they don’t normally know. For example, we’re going to be doing CPR training for the entire staff and they’ll do it within their teams — then they get two hours of getting to know each other,” said Southerland.
As the end of the school year is in sight, Trevon is considering multiple options for college and his education at Smyrna High School has prepared him for a successful future, he said. He plays the trumpet and is particularly interested in musical composition.
“I’m still waiting on a couple of decisions, but wherever I go I know I want to study mechatronics. I’m also going to continue with music, so I’m probably going to end up double minoring in composition and then instrumental performance,” said Trevon. “But even after my tertiary education, whatever I do with engineering I’m going to try to integrate that with music. My main interest is how computers automatically generate music, so that’s another thing I want to look at doing.”
Smyrna High School partners with Bethel University and is the school’s second largest campus in Tennessee. Additionally, Smyrna offers the Bethel Associates program and the Cambridge International program.
“Currently in the building, we have 137 kids in the Cambridge program, and we have 42 who have applied for next year,” Southerland said.
The Cambridge program is writing-based with a strong emphasis on critical thinking. Students, like Trevon, have the opportunity to earn college credits by taking Cambridge exams.
“There’s a place here for everyone,” said Southerland. “There are so many different things students can get involved in, and they do. Not everyone wants to be a part of the same thing – but there’s a million different offerings they can be a part of while they’re here.