Award sparks inspiration

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 23, 2014


OVERCOMER: Christian Smith has beat incredible odds to be selected as one of 106 Horatio Alger Award winners.

OVERCOMER: Christian Smith has beat incredible odds to be selected as one of 106 Horatio Alger Award winners.          Photo submitted

Christian L. Smith, a senior at Pearl River Central High School, was recently presented with a Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Scholarship, in Washington D.C. by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, according to a press release.

Smith was one of 106 students in the nation to receive this honor, which comes with up to $21,000 in scholarship funds.

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The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans is a nonprofit educational organization, focusing on recognizing achievements of outstanding individuals and encouraging them to pursue their dreams of higher education.

“I found out about the award through my school counselor. I was the biggest scholarship recipient through the Horatio Algers program,” he said.

While Smith said the immediate appeal was financial aid for school, after he attended the conference in DC, he left with an entirely new perspective.

“It blew my mind,” he said. “It had a lot of well known and respected people (there). I got to meet Wayne Gretsky and Clarence Thomas, Richard Branson was at one the dinners, Jerry Jones, Tom Selleck, We met the owner of Under Armour by the Lincoln Memorial. We were given Under Armour jackets with inscriptions.”

Smith said the event was not a one-time event. He now has a life-long membership in an organization that promises resources and assistance for its members.

“A big thing that the association is about is helping kids who have been through adversity. I found people who have had similar experiences to my own and realized that I am not the only one with a story like this. Meeting people who had started out like me and who are now very successful was inspiring,” he said. “I feel better about who I am. I have always been a very hard worker. Now, I see what I have been through as something that doesn’t make me less of a person. It just makes me stronger.”

After graduation, Smith plans to attend Pearl River Community College where he will play baseball before heading to Ole Miss. Smith wants to major in pharmacology.

“This year’s National Scholars Conference provided a unique opportunity for Horatio Algers members and the 2014 Horatio Algers National Scholars to come together for a powerful shared experience,” David Sokol, chairman of the Association said in a press release.

Through the release, Sokol said these connections are priceless because they allow students to realize the height of their potential and to witness the success that can be achieved through diligence and focus.

“The 2014 Horatio Alger National Scholars have faced staggering adversities but, because of their extraordinary character, they have proven anything is possible,” Sokol continued, in the release.

Family friend, Blake Travis was out of the country and unable to speak by phone, but in an inbox message through Facebook, said of Smith, “The Horatio Alger Association’s desire is to provide scholarship assistance to deserving young people who demonstrate integrity and determination in overcoming adversity.
“Christian Smith and my nephew (Christian Travis) have been best friends since childhood. It has been an honor and privilege for me to get to know him better and love him just like family. ‘Smitty’ is a remarkable young man whose character and commitment to his faith in Jesus Christ are an inspiration to all that know him.
“The association also focuses on the importance of helping others and I can honestly say that knowing him helps me to be a better person every day. Christian Smith will benefit for years to come from receiving this scholarship and I have no doubt he will pay it forward.”

Smith currently plays varsity football and baseball, while maintaining a grade point average of 3.96 and being active in the Beta Club and National Honor Society.