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A History of Serving the Community

Serving the community has been a passion of mine since I moved into the district 27 years ago. Our current representative, Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel, is an excellent legislator who has done so much for Nevada and our district. Now that she’s running for another office it is the perfect opportunity for me to use my knowledge and skills to continue improving our community. I have experience building associations from grassroots efforts to multi-million-dollar organizations, working creatively and collaboratively to achieve results.

  • CEO of Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation, helping children with visual impairments reach their full potential through early education, life skills development, and employment training.
  • Served as COO for a national organization dedicated to empowering girls with the life skills to become leaders in their communities and change the world.
  • My family has called Assembly District 20 home for the past 27 years and I am glad to have served the community during that time.
  • Attended and taught at UNLV, and have a son who is currently studying there and a daughter who recently graduated.

The current crisis has changed everyone’s lives, and while Nevada still has to work on the issues that motivated me file for office, such as fixing our broken education and healthcare systems, the ongoing pandemic has shifted everyone’s attention to the economy, and the decisions that will lead us to a full recovery. We need to make sure businesses reopen, our state returns to full employment, and the healthcare and social service systems that have been devastated return better prepared to serve the community in a time of need.

Emily Smith for Nevada

Why I'm Running

My personal and professional background give me the benefit of seeing our community through many points of view. My kids grew up attending public school in this neighborhood, my husband is retired and has lived in this district since the 60’s. I have lead nonprofits and represented children and individuals with disabilities.  In fact, I would tackle my work as a legislator much like I do my work as a nonprofit leader – you have to listen to your constituents, understand what their needs are, and figure out how to address the root causes of concern (not just the symptoms). Collaboration, consensus, and support from a diverse group of individuals with varying points of view results in efficient, effective and fiscally responsible results.

When I filed for office, I was focused on improving our healthcare and education systems. The ongoing pandemic has shifted my attention to the economy, and the decisions that will lead us to a full recovery. We need to make sure businesses reopen, our state returns to full employment, and the healthcare and social service systems that have been devastated return better prepared to serve the community in a time of need

Emily Smith for Nevada

Giving at risk girls a better chance at a successful future

My daughter was part of a national organization serving girls. I saw a need to bring more exposure to the organization so more girls could participate and the organization could expand its programming in at-risk communities to ensure all girls had a chance to succeed. I shared my vision with the organization’s CEO, and asked that they take a leap of faith in my passion to improve the services the organization provides. Two weeks later I was an employee and stayed for the next 10 years.

During my time with the organization, I worked to better the lives of all girls. But one of the most progressive programs I was proud to be a part of was the one serving girls in the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center. The girls, some as young as 12 years old, were convicted of theft, drugs, even prostitution. We recognized that almost every girl in detention had someone in their life influencing her to make poor choices. We knew that without a positive influence, once released they would re-offend and return to detention. We began investing time mentoring these young women, helping them understand their value and guiding them to make wiser life choices.

During a trip to our state capital to teach a group of young ladies about state government and how to advocate for themselves, I worked with then Assemblywoman and current Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, and we brainstormed the logistics for an idea I had to create a signature fundraising event to support the girls. It was hard work, but with Marilyn and a committee of amazing women, we started an event that would become the signature gala for the organization, raising much needed funding to support the organization's mission.

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Service starts with a spark that inspires, which builds until it changes lives

In the nonprofit world there are important opportunities to identify a problem and set things in motion that change people’s lives. I feel my most meaningful impact on Nevada has been the creation of Nevada's first preschool for children who are blind or visually impaired. When approached about the opportunity to work with Nevada Blind Children's Foundation, I was hesitant since I had no previous experience with this unique community. The organization was looking for somebody who could build the organization's operations, develop and deliver programs, and create a comprehensive Learning Center for blind and visually impaired children in their community. They appreciated my previous work, and hoped I could do the same for them. I was the first full-time employee of the organization in November of 2014 and in the years since, we have build the organization to a staff of 18 employees, we moved our Learning Center to a 12,000sf school, developed after-school programs that prepare our students for an independent future, and this past February, opened Nevada's first inclusive preschool for children who are blind or visually impaired .

I believe in long term strategies to achieve dramatic goals. At the time Nevada was one of seven states that did not have a school for the blind, and only 37% of blind adults in our state have a high school diploma and full-time employment. That was costing our community $1 million over the lifetime of the person. The solution was clear, open a center that could provide necessary services in one location. Now the school provides comprehensive therapy and education programs for children, while supporting their parents and enabling them to maintain full-time employment. We prepare our students to transition into the Clark County School District, increasing their graduation rates which enables them to realize their full potential and contribute fully to society despite their alternate abilities.

There was a nine year old boy at the center who was so far behind in his literacy skills that a teacher with the Clark County School District, responsible for assessing a student’s abilities, told us that it would be impossible for him to graduate high school because he was already too far behind, and he didn’t have the ability or support to catch up. We were not willing to accept that there was no hope for this boy, or for any of the children that we serve, We identified the obstacles that prevent children with disabilities from succeeding, worked on removing them, and increased our development of after school programs We understood that our efforts could not focus solely on the child, but had to extend to his home as well. We connected his family with social services like food pantries, job placement, and transportation assistance.

We worked to change the future of one child, and created a method for improving the futures of every child we care for. Within 12 months the boy was reading at grade level, and after 18 months he was reading at a grade level ahead. Today that young man is in high school, and hopes to pursue a career in literature and music.