Distinguished Through the Decades: 2015, Anna Catherine Smith

PROGRESS 2022 – Distinguished Through the Decades

Taking part in the Miss RHS pageant led Anna Catherine Smith to try her hand at the Distinguished Young Women program.

A 2015 graduate from Russellville High School, Smith was drum major of the Marching Hundred her senior year, following several years of being on the drum line. She also served on the student council and was in pretty much all the clubs, and she took part in scholars bowl and the Chamber’s Junior Leadership program. “I had my hands in everything. I was always bored, so I wanted to do everything I could,” said Smith. The youngest of seven, Smith said she felt she had a lot to live up to, and she wanted to prove herself. She also tried cheer, robotics and rocketry – and basketball, but “I was awful at it.”

DYW alum Maggie Coan and her mother Cindy Coan encouraged Smith to try the DYW program following her Miss RHS participation. Smith said what she liked about DYW was there was “no one set standard type of person they are looking for. I was very scared going into that I would be the oddball out, but there were all kinds of women there.”

The Homecoming Queen, daughter of Mike and Stephanie Mayfield and Tim and Debbie Smith, said she has always benefited from being very comfortable in herself. “I was never shy about what I liked,” she said. “My parents raised me to be who I am, so I always was that, and I think people connected with that on some level. It gave me an opportunity to reach out to a lot of people – because people felt comfortable.”

The scholarship money, of course, was also one of DYW’s draws. “I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in engineering at Auburn, so I needed the scholarship money,” Smith said. Her parents had encouraged her to go wherever she wanted for college – but also encouraged her to find a way to pay for it herself.

A delegate to Girls State and an Alabama Governor’s School attendee, Smith continued to reconnect with the same driven young women across the state.

From the DYW program, Smith said she most enjoyed the self-expression portion – “It gave me a chance to practice communicating my ideas in a way that would make sense to a wide audience, which is super important in today’s society, I think – and talent portion. For her talent, she performed a four-mallet marimba solo. “I think people enjoyed getting to see a musical talent that was a little off the beaten path, and I enjoyed playing it.”

Today, Smith works at NCR Corporation in Atlanta, hiring on there after earning her degree in industrial and systems engineering at Auburn University.

Once upon a time, being an engineer was her big goal, but she said Auburn opened her vision to even bigger dreams. She decided to reach for the stars – literally. She has ambitions of returning to school to get her master’s degree in aerospace engineering and work for NASA – maybe even become an astronaut. “I went to space camp when I was 11, and it was my favorite thing ever,” she said. “I absolutely fell in love. I’ve always been obsessed with space.” She said it speaks to her explorer’s heart.

“People always look at me incredulously when I say I want to be an astronaut,” Smith said. “It’s a challenge – but it’s the biggest one. It’s the biggest one out there” – a challenge she can’t help but want to take on.