Dr. Ramel LaMont Smith was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Smith credits his early success in his life to familial support. Although from a small nuclear family, Smith extended family, specifically his maternal grandmother, played a major role in his development. The main pillars which provided the foundation of his life were found in church, education, and athletics. At the age of eleven, Smith realized his potential after being accepted into Samuel Morse Middle School for the Gifted and Talented. It was not the school in itself per se; but, the confidence and high expectations that allowed everyone to believe in their own unique gifts and talents.
It was important to Dr. Smith that not only his successes be labeled in his bio, but also the challenges that he faced. Far too often many people fail to share their weaknesses and the barriers that they overcame. Despite being an honor student, Smith recounts time when he was placed in remedial mathematics and reading classes– even at the school for the gifted and talented. As a result, he found himself constantly in trouble for fighting and other disruptive behaviors. These actions created great conflict for his life at school and at home. Yet, Smith credits these early struggles as a key component to his ability to become an effective problem solver.
After graduation from Rufus King High School, Smith attended the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater, where he states he lived a dual lifestyle. At this time he was undecided if he wanted to be a scholar or a thug. For example, he stated how he would do numerous service projects with his fraternity brothers of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. by day, but at night would violate the very rules that was embedded into him by his family and fraternity. The culmination of this paradoxical lifestyle manifested itself in Smith being arrested on his graduation night. After graduation, Smith had plans to immediately attend graduate school; however, his 18 month probation sentence eliminated his chance to go to school out of state.
Perseverance, resiliency, tenacity are traits that Smith learned during his childhood. The aforementioned struggles gave him the confidence to understand that obstacles were merely a set back and not the end. While on probation, Smith began to turn his life around and began his career in education in the Milwaukee Public School system (MPS) as a para-professional. One year later he would be given the opportunity to teach his own classroom. After several years with MPS, Smith decided to go back to school full-time to continue his education and fulfill his original dream of obtaining a doctorate. While at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UW-M), Smith met Dr. Festus E. Obiakor, his educational father, whom he credits for his transition into a true scholar. In 2003, Smith became the first African-American to earn his doctorate in the area of Urban Education with an emphasis in School Psychology at UW-M.
Smith previously worked for the Department of Corrections in Wisconsin, where he provided therapeutic services to both men and women inmates. Many wondered how he transitioned from an educator into a prison reformer. Smith states the transition is not as difficult as most would think. “Unfortunately, many of the men and women I met with were the boys and girls who were in trouble at school, placed in negatively stigmatizing special education classes, and eventual dropouts. This same school system has become a feeder system into our jails and prisons. The placement was actually perfect, because I have experienced similar situations as a lot of the inmates. And, I made it! Correction…. I am making it. My success has become a light of hope for others to know they can still achieve their dreams and that is not over.” Smith is now working with children again, as a Psychologist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin (CH-W).
Today, when Smith is not counseling in the Psychiatry department at CH-W, he works on his own consulting business. He has done breakout sessions for the federal government, marriage retreats, keynote addresses to colleges and universities, speeches for faith-based organizations, trainings for correctional staff, and workshops for educators, Smith is an energetic young man that has been best described as “intelligence with a heart.” In addition, Smith is the producer and co-host of a local cable show designed to help provide information on mental health and self help topics.
Smith states that though he is a problem solver and motivational speaker, he still encounters situations on a daily basis that allow him to personally test and implement the material he presents. “I am not where I want to be as a person, I still have a lot of areas in my personal life to improve. Professionally, I understand as I continue to climb and look for others to help me reach my goals and potential, I must continue to lend my other hand to pull up others in need of such help from myself.”
Though Dr. Smith’s career accomplishments have seen many accolades and awards, he understands that family and friends are the key component for having a life full of success. Smith’s first marriage prematurely dissolved after seven years; however, he has taken advantage of a second opportunity at a family. Dr. Smith understands the importance of proper prioritization and a strong support system.