Smith takes his second chance to give back

Apr. 08, 2014 @ 07:27 PM

Christian Smith has logged more than 90 hours of community service in the past three months.

Since he graduated from the Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy, the 16-year-old has devoted much more time to volunteerism than ever before. The Tarheel ChalleNGe is part of the nationwide National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program that includes a five-month residential phase on the Sampson County campus.

Smith volunteers regularly at the Boys & Girls Club in Vance County by helping kids with homework, checking in members and cleaning up the Clark Street facility.

He also helps out at his church, Sandy Grove Missionary, with the soup kitchen, food pantry and other forms of outreach there.

Growing up in Henderson, Smith said he was hardheaded and always got in trouble.

“I had a lot of problems in school,” he said. “I didn’t like going, I didn’t like being told what to do. I was out of control. I felt like, in my heart, it was time for a change.”

The five months he spent living at the military-style boot camp transformed his behavior, as well as his desire to give back to the community through service.

While living and taking classes at the Tarheel ChalleNGe, he earned his General Education Development diploma, and now he’s considering entering the military.

“For the first time, I can really say my mom, she is really proud of me because she knows I’m trying to do well,” he said. “I’ve never thought realistically about going to college, and now it’s an option.”

His daily routine at the boot camp included a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call, a five-mile run and class from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“I shook hands with the governor, and I went to the Governor’s Mansion,” he said. “I had never seen anything like that, and it made me want to change.”

Smith said he is motivated to give back because of the second chance he was given.

“Somebody took the time out to help me, so I’m going to give back to someone else,” he said.

 

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.