Alcyon (Alli) B Smalls & The Garden
There Are Flowers in the Valley






Being the eighth of nine children took being a middle child to a whole new level.  Alli often felt left out, discarded, like she always needed to compete.  There was only one problem, she was afraid of her own shadow and she didn’t handle rejection well.  This was a very sad and humble beginning for Alli until her mother enrolled her in a program called The Fresh Air Fund when she was eight years old that bused inner city youths out of the city to experience life outside of the city walls.  This experience was the beginning of Alli’s dream to be a motivational speaker and set the course that revealed to her there are flowers in the valley of life.








As a child, Alli wanted so desperately to be popular; to have lots of friends and hang out with the “in” crowd.  This was not to be.  Alli was a timid child who spent a lot of time observing others because she was very introverted and afraid to rock the boat.  She often wondered what it was that made the “in crowd” “in” and shy people like her “out”.  Unbeknownst to her, it was the beginning of her career as a Human Services professional.  Feeling like an outcast and being more concerned with what people thought of her than she though of herself, she began searching for a strength that would help her move beyond self-imposed isolation.  She began to learn that her opinion was as important as anyone else’s.  That if she didn’t think higher of herself, then no one would.  Alli learned later that because of her lack of popularity, she didn’t have issues with peer pressure.  This served as a good thing in her life.




Throughout her academic life in secondary school, she continued to observe and seek others like her who appeared to be alone in a sea of people.  It made her feel better to help someone else than to feel sad that others weren’t jumping at the opportunity to be in her company.  Again, this later served Alli well in that she learned to own her own time.  She chose her own company and how long she would remain in their company.  She didn’t have many demands on her time from others.  As she found her voice, she began to develop into a social butterfly.  She could “work a room” like nobody’s business!  She learned to be social, charismatic, and poised.  She initiated conversations, instead of waiting to be on the receiving end of someone’s desire to associate with her.  She learned to direct conversation and be conversant on many different topics.  As a developing young person, she couldn’t see how what she perceived to be flaws in her life were actually opportunities that helped shape her future.  Maybe there are some things that are in your life that appear to be obstacles or impediments that if harnessed properly can become great assets.




None of this would have been possible without a desperate attempt by Alli’s mother to have her experience something greater than what she could give her in the Bronx, New York.  The location chosen for Alli to spend two weeks with a sponsor family was in Malvern, Pennsylvania.  It was in Malvern, Pa., having traveled for the first time alone on a greyhound bus from the Bronx in New York City, that Alli met her first mentor and greatest advocate.  Her name is Karen Klomp.  Thirty-seven years later, Karen is still Alli’s mentor and greatest advocate.




Mentors are chosen by many circumstances.  Sometimes, circumstances chose a mentor for you.  Sometimes, you chose one for yourself.  Other times, a parent, teacher, or family friend may recommend or chose a mentor for you.  However a mentor enters your life, the relationship is a special bond that shapes, guides, and molds, while allowing the greatest opportunity for individual growth for both the mentor and the mentee.  Today, Alli has three mentors, and serves as a mentor to youths and older adults.




Professional Issue




Today, Alli is a career specialist in a public high school in Columbia, South Carolina.  Her job creates a unique challenge for her as she is responsible for providing career development to 400+ students to help prepare them for life beyond high school.  Alli’s professional challenge is heightened by her responsibility of rearing her four school age children as a divorced mom, supporting her children by volunteering to serve on their school improvement counsel committees, maintaining a social life, and morally supporting her eldest daughter who has recently enlisted in the US Marine Corp.  For Alli, balancing her professional career and her life outside of her job is a continual challenge.  She provides not only career development to her students, she also provides character education to help them understand how character plays a vital role in academic, personal, and profession success.  To add to her professional challenge, the high school where Alli works is classified as a Priority School by the SC Department of Education.  This priority status places the school on a list of failing schools with low student and staff attendance, behavior problems, and low academic performance.  Additionally, the students attending the school qualify live in a low socio-economic environment.  She was recently transferred from an award winning alternative school to work with a team of educators in an effort to transition the high school from the priority school status to a premier medical academy.  This will take a lot of work, time, and commitment which brings balancing her work, family, and personal life to a new challenge.  Alli, at times, becomes torn between her commitment and love for her work and her love and desire to spend quality time with her children.  How can she seek to save other people’s children while sacrificing her own?  If you found yourself in her place, what would you recommend Alli do to bring more balance to her life?


Personal Issue


 A divorced mother of four school age children, and a young adult, presents continual challenges for Alli.  Helping her children maintain healthy relationships with herself and her ex-husband, while maintaining their grades in school presents ongoing challenges for Alli.  She has a blossoming career as a speaker, career specialist, author, and facilitator of a successful parent program, her personal issue often mirrors her professional issue…balance.  Alli has at least three mentors in her life.  Each mentor offers a different support for Alli from professional to personal.  She has learned the valuable role mentors bring to her life and has become a mentor for both males and females throughout her life.  She values mentoring so much that she began a mentoring program in her church to help bridge the youth parishioners with the adult parishioners.  Alli believes mentoring allows you to give back to society in a way that gives personal satisfaction to the mentor and the mentee.  Developing a personal system of balance is different for everyone.  Alli has developed mastery in balancing her life, however, she does know how to bring balance back into her life when things become off balanced.  With every challenge, an opportunity to grow or fold under the pressure is present.  These are the flowers in the valley. When you’re in the valley, do you see flowers or shriveled weeds?  Do you walk through the valleys of life seeking the growth opportunity in the struggles or are you anxiously awaiting the passage of time and struggle?  A helpful article offering suggestions on balancing academic and social life, check out the article Balancing College School Work and Social Life on the College Confidential website at