STAMFORD (Stamford Advocate)- Scott Smith’s afternoons as a boy in Ansonia were spent at church.
Smith was not raised very religious; his Catholic mother and Protestant father baptized him in the former’s church and let him decide for himself what religion to follow. But his mother would take him to her Catholic church after school to pray in the empty building.
“How do you pray?” a younger Smith would ask his mother as they knelt at the pews.
“Scott, just talk to God,” she would whisper.
Smith would remember that advice throughout his life, and it kickstarted his spiritual journey, which included being confirmed in the Catholic church at 16. His faith would guide him through his career in education, first as a teacher and administrator in Waterbury Public Schools, then as a Dean of Academics for the Elm City College Preparatory Elementary School with Achievement First charter schools.
And he says his faith led him to Trinity Catholic, where he began his first year as principal on Friday.
“This is much more about my spiritual journey,” said Smith, 46. “This wasn’t just another step in my career. It was a calling.”
Smith enters the Catholic school at a time of change and growth. This year Trinity Catholic is starting The Learning Academy, which will cater to students with learning disabilities. They’ve also started a new division, Cardinal Kung Academy, offers a classical education.
Smith also comes at a time of turmoil for the Catholic church amid allegations of cover-ups of sexual abuse at the highest levels of the organization. But as many parishioners struggle with their faith in the church, Smith is looking at bringing the focus back to the very faith that makes Catholic school unique.
“What makes us different than public school options?” he said. “It’s the faith-based piece and that’s a big piece. What you get here that you don’t get in public schools is that here, when we look at each other, you want to look at each other in the likeness of God. You want to see God in everybody —students, staff— because if you look at everybody like that, you treat everybody with kindness. That’s as God intended. It’s really that faith piece that sets us apart and that’s what we’ll emphasize.”
But after working with inner-city students and the struggles they faced, he began to think about how faith can help guide young people and he applied at Trinity despite a lack of teaching experience in parochial schools. During the interview process, he shared the story of his own spiritual journey which helped him get the job.
“Especially as administrator these past few years and where I was with my faith, you see a lot of problems and you just think what’s needed is prayer,” he said. “I was yearning to be part of something where that could be part of our day.”