Immigrants And Refugees

Julia Smith

It takes a team:
Julia Smith

For Julia Smith, sports—particularly track and basketball—have always created a sense of belonging, but when a knee injury prevented her from keeping a track scholarship, Julia found herself on the streets. Julia moved into shelters, then onto public assistance. After therapy, mentoring from Catholic Charities’ Educational Outreach Program, and a remarkable amount of courage and resilience, Julia now thrives as a program director at Catholic Charities and advocate for hundreds of children. 

Julia translates her athletic background into meaningful change through Hoop Haven, a basketball program that opens its doors to Harlem youth of all ages and circumstances. When she noticed that Caleb, a longtime participant, wasn’t getting his basic needs met, she reached out to his mother, Dianne. As a young single mother who left an abusive partner, Dianne struggles with her mental health and has a hard time making ends meet. 

Julia works with Caleb and Dianne on social skills and decision-making and connects them to other resources. Through the St. Nicholas Project this year, Dianne and Caleb received warm winter essentials and clothing. The family regularly visits the food pantry at the Kennedy Center, where they also received a Thanksgiving meal. When Dianne is ready to seek the help she needs, she knows that Catholic Charities will be there for her—just as it was for Julia.

I share my story with the kids because I want them to know that I’ve been there, too, that they can trust me.