Being in Survival Mode Gave Her the Push She Needed

Shelly Smith – Ogden-Weber Technical College


Shelly Smith attended a couple of semesters of college before she married, had kids, and put education on the shelf. She stayed at home with her children for 15 years, but in 2012, she went through a divorce. “When I walked out of our home, I was penniless,” she said. She had two children, no job skills, and no financial help from her ex, who was in the throes of substance abuse at the time.

Shelly was living with her parents and relied on government assistance. She started working as a personal trainer and began cleaning houses. “I was making enough money to put food on the table, but I had to get some skills quickly in order to get into the workforce.” She was in survival mode and didn’t have the time or finances to get a bachelor’s degree. “Walking into OTECH was a game-changer. They made me feel comfortable and helped me develop the skills I needed. It was the leadership and student services that made me know when I went into the workforce, I would have the skills to succeed.” Not only did they give her skills to succeed, but her connections there helped lead her to her current position as the Director of Boards & Commissions for the Office of the Governor.

Shelly finished the program at OTECH in nine months and got a job with Weber School Foundation. Her boss recognized she had more skills beyond being a secretary, so they moved her into a development role. Through it, she gained experience in fundraising, community and civic engagement, and donor relations. “I loved it, but I knew there was more.” After being with them for three years, she left the school district to explore various development jobs in the non-profit sector. Shelly spent two years volunteering for the Cox-Henderson campaign; through this experience, she developed a love for politics and public service. It was because of her involvement with the campaign, Governor Cox appointed her to her current position in January.

Shelly explained there seems to be a lot of women in Utah who put their education on hold to raise their family but then are unsure of what to do when their children grow up. Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson was a stay-at-home mom for many years and is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree. She encourages women to go back to finish their education. Shelly herself will be heading back to Weber State this fall to finish her degree. She thinks she wouldn’t be going back to school now if it wasn’t for her time at OTECH, which helped her realize she can open her mind and learn again. “It’s all in the right time and space,” she said.

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