Ask Tremain Smith what motivated him to go to college and he’ll sheepishly tell you the truth: a girl. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding why Smith found himself pursuing a degree, his journey is a reminder of the value of community and how people who experience positive relationships often pay them forward through service.
Smith grew up at Andrew Jackson Courts. While life was not without its challenges, Smith recalls a family atmosphere and forming deep friendships with others in his neighborhood.
“We had a group of friends who I still talk to now and are still some of my closest friends,” Smith said. “There was a lot of good that came out of my experiences.”
It was in ninth grade that Smith met a girl who would change the trajectory of his life.
“I’ll never forget her saying to me that she didn’t want a man who wasn’t going to church and wasn’t going to college,” Smith said. “That made all the difference to me in high school.”
Smith started dating his high school crush and began preparing to attend college. He was also a basketball player and hoped to continue playing in college.
“I was motivated and started to excel academically and athletically,” Smith said.
It was around this time in Smith’s life that a sports information director at Tennessee State University saw Smith playing basketball. Upon seeing Smith’s potential, he began driving Smith to practice with college basketball players from various leagues.
After completing high school, Smith attended Tennessee State University (TSU). His girlfriend went to a different university and they ended their relationship, but they still keep in touch to this day. Smith graduated from TSU with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management in 1989. He was hired at an insurance company where his work ethic and dedication has contributed to him working for more than three decades. Smith also became involved with the Boys and Girls Club at Andrew Jackson Courts, spearheading clothing drives for program participants, coaching basketball and more.
“It’s been an important part of my life, and I enjoyed having that outlet to give back to the community,” Smith said.
From the young woman who encouraged him to pursue a college education, to the coaching staff member who saw his potential as an athlete, to his older brother who set an example for him to follow, Smith sees the people around him as key to his success.
“People took an interest in me and invested in me and my growth as a person,” Smith reflected. “They helped show me there was more out there for me to pursue.”
Smith hopes to continue to uplift the young people in his community like others did for him growing up.
“I see success as being a good father, friend and neighbor,” Smith said. “Those relationships we cultivate are what it’s all about.”