PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – Rutherford High School graduate Nadine Smith was named alongside some of the world’s most recognizable people in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2022.

She worked tirelessly for decades in order to create a better life for minorities in Florida, with the bulk of her work fighting for both Black & LGBTQ communities.

Part of her passion for the job comes back to her roots here in Bay County.

Smith explains, “I know what it is to grow up in a school district where there are no “out” teachers there’s no support. The isolation leads so many LGBTQ young people to drop out of school or deal with depression. When you don’t have support, you don’t have a safe space. When a school is a place of bullying instead of learning, it has a devasting effect on young people, and so for me, I can look back on my days in elementary and junior high and high school and feel much better knowing that there is more support for young people now then there was back then.”

Smith heads “Equality Florida” which is Florida’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing liberties for LGBTQ people and their families.

Currently, Smith and her organization are pushing back against the controversial Parental Rights in Education bill also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and other laws Smith says seek to erode basic protections for marginalized groups.

“We have to create a vision of America where people see themselves and see their grandchildren being able to thrive, where these decisions aren’t made on the basis of race or gender or sexual orientation, and you know that’s the America that was promised and made to all of us. That’s the America that I will continue to work for and I think it’s the only path forward that respects and protects everyone” said Smith.

Smith says she doesn’t think being on this list will have her hiding from the paparazzi in the grocery store, but the notoriety of being on the Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2022 list is something special.

“It has been a lovely experience I’ve gotten to hear from old friends from Bay County I’ve gotten to hear from former teachers and lots of well-wishers, and you know a lot of people saying “keep up the fight.”