NAACP stu­dent leader vy­ing for state BOE

North Point’s Smith a fi­nal­ist for stu­dent mem­ber of the board

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com

Charles County NAACP Youth Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Kyle J. Smith, 17, seems des­tined for great things and is cur­rently us­ing his in­no­va­tive, pro­gres­sive and youth-ori­ented mind­set to change his com­mu­nity, one day at a time.

Smith was re­cently named a fi­nal­ist for the stu­dent mem­ber of the Mary­land State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion. Now Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) will have to de­cide be­tween Smith and a Mont- gomery County stu­dent who are both vy­ing for the seat.

Dur­ing his many years of ex- pe­ri­ence in stu­dent gov­ern­ment and the NAACP, Smith has de­cided to take the lessons he has learned and pass them on to his peers so that they, too, will have a bright fu­ture.

“I work with the adults on NAACP to make sure that the youth have an ac­tive role in car­ry­ing out the mis­sion of the NAACP,” he said.

“We have a real promis­ing fu­ture and there are so many young African Amer­i­cans who have done so well, es­pe­cially since we al­ways stand on the shoul­ders of our an­ces­tors and elders who have paved the way for us. We’ve al­ready got­ten to the White House; we can only move for­ward from here,” Smith said.

The Wal­dorf res­i­dent is a de­ter­mined stu­dent at North Point High School who has served as NAACP Youth Coun­cil pres­i­dent

since 2015. He has also served as vice pres­i­dent of the Charles County As­so­ci­a­tion of Stu­dent Coun­cils and as the state leg­isla­tive af­fairs co­or­di­na­tor for the Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Stu­dent Coun­cils.

“It’s re­ally ex­cit­ing [to be a fi­nal­ist]. I started the process last year with an in­ter­view process, and then I was elected by the stu­dents,” Smith said.

In his let­ter to vot­ers, he wrote, “The is­sues that the next State SMOB will ad­dress are so im­por­tant that it will take all of us, col­lec­tively work­ing to­gether in or­der for there to be sig­nif­i­cant progress for all stu­dents, be­cause when stu­dents work to­gether, there is no is­sue that we can­not solve. Dur­ing this elec­tion we have the power to shape the dis­cus­sion of the state board of ed­u­ca­tion if we work to­gether for the well be­ing of all of our peers, es­pe­cially the most marginal­ized and un­der- served in our state.”

Re­cently, Smith has led the NAACP Youth Coun- cil as it vis­ited churches, as­sisted at bingo events held for se­nior cit­i­zens and hosted youth out- reach in the com­mu­nity while re­defin­ing any NAACP stig­mas or pre-con­ceived no­tions about how the youth can truly ben­e­fit from join­ing the NAACP.

He and the youth coun- cil are also work­ing to im- prove race re­la­tions in the coun­try by reach­ing out to faith-based groups and stu­dents. In early 2015, Smith or­ga­nized a “Black Lives Mat­ter March,” march­ing from the Charles County Court- house in La Plata to the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice. The march in­cluded lo­cal pro­tes­tors who ad­vo­cated for black lives, the right for all Amer­i­cans of color to feel safe in their com­mu­ni­ties and “not be racially pro­filed nor pe­nal- ized in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem at such a dis­pro­por­tion­ate rate.”

“I’m ex­cited about what we have go­ing on this year. We have a lot of work ahead of us this year with the new ad­min­is­tra­tion, so we will have to put on our protest shoes and get out there,” Smith said.

Smith works closely with Charles County NAACP Youth Ad­vi­sor Wanda Wills Wood­land, whom he met while he was in the ninth grade. She said she was con­vinced that Smith would be a gamechanger for the NAACP Youth Coun­cil. He said ever since then he has been ex­tremely in- volved and mak­ing con­tri­bu­tions to the tasks of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“As he con­tin­ues he is go­ing to be a leader like no other. My goal is to help him de­velop his skill and get his agenda out there. We need more youth like Kyle who are on fire and want to work with the com­mu­nity,” Wills Wood­land said.

She de­scribes Smith as very ar­tic­u­late, ex­tremely in­tel­li­gent, driven and a very hum­ble per­son.

“Some kids, they lose the com­pas­sion and are so self-cen­tered, but Kyle is a giv­ing per­son. He’s just a joy and we’re real- ly blessed to have him in a lead­er­ship role in the NAACP Youth Coun­cil. He is a bril­liant young man and I just can’t wait to see him as a fu­ture leader. I’m proud that he al­lowed me to be a part of what­ever he wants to be,” Wills Wood­land said.

Smith is pas­sion­ate about ed­u­ca­tion, so he plans to tackle the achieve­ment gap and the in­equity in un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties. He also came up with the idea to plan a Unity March in April that will pull teens to­gether to talk about racial ten­sion and the di­vide of­ten felt within lo­cal schools.

“In or­der to heal, we must move on,” Smith said.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Charles County NAACP Youth Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Kyle J. Smith, 17, a stu­dent at North Point High School, re­cently be­came a fi­nal­ist for stu­dent mem­ber of the Mary­land State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion.

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