What a way to celebrate!
A mom took out a billboard to celebrate her daughter earning her doctorate degree, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Kristine Smalls said her mom has always gone big with celebrating her and her brother as a child. Turns out, that level of affirmation helped push Smalls into a cycle of consistent success that would prove extremely fruitful. From becoming middle school valedictorian of her New Jersey school, to earning a full scholarship to high school that she had the freedom to pass on, in favor of a more well-rounded public school education.
“She typically goes above and beyond for me and my brother whenever we, like, have any type of accomplishment. She kind of outdoes herself each time,” Smalls explained.
Smalls went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Kean University and a master’s from Rowan University with an educational specialist certification. She then parlayed that into a successful career as a school staff psychologist, her stint there inspiring her to someday open a resource center for mental health services and reentry support in her hometown of Camden. But before any of those things could happen, Smalls decided to pursue her doctorate degree.
“A lot of people forget about mental health and how real and important it is,” Smalls explained.
Now the 30-year-old Jersey psychologist has seen her dreams manifest, recently graduating from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine with a doctorate in clinical psychology. To celebrate, her mother Kendra Busbee did what she always does, go big. This time the grand gesture came in the form of a 14 feet high 48-foot across billboard that sits over Route 130 in Smalls' hometown of Camden.
The billboard reads, “Let me Re-Introduce Myself…Dr. Kristine S. Smalls…Look what good came out of Camden!”
Smalls was completely in shock, initially thinking her family and friends were gathered in the parking lot outside of a restaurant as a safeguard against COVID. When her mother finally pointed her to the billboard, she was shocked.
“OMG, I’m on a billboard,” said Smalls.
Her mother planned the surprise celebration herself, feeling it was important to acknowledge her daughter for all of her hard work while simultaneously inspiring others who may see it. In the city of Camden, just 3.4% of people over the age of 25 hold an advanced degree, and only 0.1% of that number have earned a doctorate in Camden. Couple that with the high rates of violence and poverty and for Busbee, highlighting her daughter’s accomplishment was a no-brainer as it was also a community accomplishment. So she used the $1,250 she made as a children’s mobile response worker to rent the sign for a month and celebrate her daughter while simultaneously inspiring the 150,000 drivers that will pass by it weekly.
“Every accomplishment that they make, it needs to be heard. For our Black and brown children, letting them know that anything is possible…We want to start from positivity. Every other child that may ride by the billboard, who else will it touch, and who else will it inspire by seeing my daughter and her Black girl magic?,” said Busbee.
Well it seems like Smalls’ story is inspiring more than just the people of Camden, a post of Smalls posing beneath her billboard already garnering hundreds of thousands of likes on social media. More importantly, Smalls said it has done its job for her too, motivating her and reminding her of her accomplishments and how much more she can do in the future.
“The billboard definitely makes me very happy and makes me feel very good about myself…I’ve ridden by it every day…This is the change that the city needs to see. There is more to Camden than just the violence. Great things come out of Camden,” said Smalls.
Congratulations Dr. Smalls! And way to go mom!
Photo Courtesy of Monica Herndon/The Philadelphia Inquirer