A Kentucky school principal adopted a student he met following her suspension from school.
In 2015, Jason Smith, a middle school principal, encountered sixth-grader Raven Whitaker-Smith outside his office. She had been suspended for throwing a cup of yogurt on a classmate at lunch “She was just this sweet looking, little innocent child sitting there, kind of defeated,” Smith recalls. His conversation with Raven revealed more than just a disciplinary issue. When asked if she would act the same way when dining with her family, Raven replied, “I’ve never eaten in one.”
This conversation revealed her challenging background, including living in a group home and being shuffled through the foster care system.
This interaction struck a chord with Smith, but he initially hesitated to share it with his wife, Marybeth. The couple had faced infertility issues and had given up on their dream of adoption six years prior, after a heart-wrenching experience with another foster situation. But when Smith finally shared Raven’s story, Marybeth recognized the significance. “This was something that, obviously, he felt pretty passionate about,” she said.
The Smiths decided to foster Raven. She moved in with them in June 2015, despite initially viewing Jason as the “bad guy” due to her disciplinary experiences. “It was really weird at first,” Raven says, but she quickly felt welcomed and part of the family.
Their journey wasn’t without challenges. Raven had to catch up academically and adjust to a new life structure. “She was willing to do all that extra work,” Marybeth noted. On November 3, 2017, their family became official with Raven’s adoption. Now a junior at the University of Kentucky, Raven studies social work, a choice inspired by her own experiences. “I need to choose something that I’m passionate about,” she explains.
Marybeth reflects on the joy Raven brought into their lives, especially during holidays, saying, “We just love her so much.”