From starting his own nonprofit organizations to motivating youth around the country as the host of “Jostens Renaissance: The Harbor,” Mike Smith continued his activism by visiting Red Mountain to encourage students to follow their dreams in two special presentations on Jan. 12. The first presentation was 9 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and welcomed 500 students from schools in Arizona, while the second presentation was 1–2 p.m. for Red Mountain students only.
“It all started when I was asked to speak at a school’s assembly because of my skatepark that was starting,” Smith said. “I thought I didn’t need a speaker to motivate me, so I didn’t think that I could motivate other people. My friend then asked me if I have done anything that inspired me and told me that I can create that for kids because I am really good at connecting with them. So, I took the chance and just went with it. There was never this plan to be this speaker dude.”
Smith discussed how he became the person he is today. He started by explaining that he had a 2.4 GPA in high school and decided to turn his life around after learning that his father was diagnosed with cancer. After that, he re-evaluated his priorities to become someone that his dad would be proud of and began putting his time into activities that helped his skill-set. Since then, Smith founded the nonprofit skatepark and outreach center in Nebraska, known as “The Bay,” that encompasses skating, performing arts, coffee and communities in a 30,000-square-foot building. Along with “The Bay,” Smith created “Skate For Change,” which is a youth movement that encourages thousands of skaters from around the world to donate to the homeless. He hopes to inspire students regardless of their background to follow their dreams.
“The addictive part that keeps me coming back is knowing there are kids today that are going to get talked to that haven’t been spoken to in days, and you’re going to see little ripples from it. That’s part of why I get hyped to speak in front of others and keep doing it,” Smith said.
Dr. Philip Campbell, an administrator who started his own high school to let students express themselves more also spoke during the first presentation. He discussed the projects that his school had like a featured student rock band and student-decorated bathrooms.
“It’s always super cool to get to interact and talk with people. It’s like you see a light bulb go off and get to watch people’s reactions to different things,” Campbell said. “I got to speak with a number of educators, have a break out session, and they were all excited about getting to take things back to their schools. For me, that’s what it is all about.”
Having Smith on campus gave students who watch the Jostens Renaissance videos during Lion Time the opportunity to connect with the video’s host.
“It was better to see him in person because he could connect more with us face to face,” sophomore David Klauka said. “It made me open my eyes, want to watch out for the little guy and think about others more than myself. Now, I just want to help out those who feel alone or are in need.”
Featured Photo By Ava Hansen