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The Voices and Faces Project: Kennedy Guest-Pritchett Produced by the Smith College Sports Committee for inclusion and diversity

Kennedy Guest-Pritchett is a senior, four year member, and captain of the Smith College Basketball team. She holds a number of accolades including Second Team All-NEWMAC in 2016, Sophomore of the Year in 2017, First Team All-NEWMAC in 2017 and 2018, and NEWMAC All-Academic Conference. In her junior year, she scored her 1000th career point and obtained the rebounding offensive record at Smith. Off the court, Guest-Pritchett is a Film and Media Studies major and a founding member of the Smith College Sports Committee for Inclusion and Diversity. The mission of this group is to work to spark conversations about diversity and create an environment that provides a sense of inclusivity for all in Smith’s Athletic department, programs and teams.

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Tell me your story at Smith.

I felt like choosing Smith was a different path that nobody had ever taken before, coming from my background. My path is destined for greatness. I wanted to come here and win championships and do something that hasn’t been done before, at the birthplace of women’s basketball, and be at a college that is for women but also have the opportunity to network in the Five College system. That was the biggest thing that sold Smith for me. But when I got here, it wasn’t an easy road at all.

You can talk to my mom, you can talk to my coaches, you can talk to my teammates that have graduated. It wasn’t easy, not so much because of the academics. Smith is a very rigorous school, and our coaches work very hard to respect that balance between athlete and student. I thought my social life was going to be a lot different. I thought the support from my team was going to be different than what I expected, and this wasn’t what I expected. It was really hard for me to deal with that. On top of that, basketball has always been my release. Winning is fun, and we weren’t winning, at all. I felt alone, I was by myself, and I really wasn’t friends with anyone and didn’t know anyone like that. It’s easy to reach out to people who look like you. When I first came to Smith [on a recruiting visit] there were three or four black people on the team. When I got here, there was only one.

I’m going to flash through a two year period of being not mentally healthy, low-key depressed, having a lot of anxiety over my experiences. I kind of said enough was enough and I took control of that. I’m thankful for the support that I did have and gained over the years. One of my teammates, Mandy Castro, who was a phenomenal person, helped me through that, and Tavorsia Talley. Those are two people I really became close with, and another wall hit when they both were gone.

And I was essentially now the "only" on my team.

It was really hard for me because I had to figure out a way to connect with a team that I felt like didn’t really know the real me. I was more reserved. I wasn’t myself.

I know that you’re involved in the Sports Committee for Inclusion and Diversity at Smith. Can you tell me about your experience with that and how that functioned to help you through your experience at Smith?

Ah, SCID, my baby, my team’s baby. It was born out of a group of basketball players who felt the need for change. There were maybe five of us who felt that Smith was not doing enough, anything actually. Granted we were under a new athletic director at the time, and there was a lot of change for our own team personally.

We took it into our hands and said enough was enough, and we need to figure out a way to stand together and stand united, not only as a team, but as a front of all athletes.

So we reached out to coaches, to other students, our amazing athletic director, Kristin Hughes, who was all hands on deck, and to Bonnie May.

It’s been a really slow start, slow journey, but every year we are doing much better in terms of getting things done and that’s all it takes. I know it won’t be over after us, and I hope every[one] after us comes forth and does bigger and better things. We’re not here to [say] "we started this." No. We’re here to say we started something, and that something should grow. SCID has just been phenomenal from every project we’ve put on. I can’t wait to see it grow in the future.

What’s one moment that you really felt your identity on your team?

One moment that I really, really felt my identity on my team was actually a combination of things. One when my coach asked me, my junior year, to be part of the leadership team. I was a junior and I realized that I was the only black person on my team, and you’re asking me to lead a group of people, that not one of them looks like me. How does that play into my experience as a leader, and as a player, and as a teammate? Empathy is very important and I feel like in order for her to understand where I was coming from I had that conversation of

"I need you to have my back in terms of supporting me as the only black person on this team."

As the year went on there were different events, such as Otelia Cromwell day, where only, I can’t even count, maybe two people went. It was an absurd number of people that did not show up to the keynote speaker’s address. I and another teammate addressed how it’s so important [to us] for you to go there, as [a] support to us. Due to [other] circumstances, I couldn’t be there, but I was hoping I would hear that they went and nobody went. No one was there, and it sucked. It sucked, but I felt it prompted my team to be more proactive and reactive now, and they understand that everybody better be at Otelia Cromwell day this year.

It’s just been a very rocky road in the beginning. I’ve learned a lot from it. I’ve learned about how to communicate with other people. There's positives and negatives, the whole double-edged sword, but I’ve grown a lot. I’ve grown so much from these experiences and now I’m a captain. I have great relationships with people on my team that I didn’t necessarily have before. I have better relationships with people in general, and most importantly, I’m better and my mental health is much, much, much better than it was before. You’re put in situations to learn and grow from them, and I don’t think it was supposed to be any other way.

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