Smith Sets Example for Community Involvement

There seems to be a recent spark in young adults wanting to make a difference both locally and nationally. Whether it’s due to the current political climate, recent events, social media, or a strong dedication to the community, one can’t help but notice this generation wanting to make an impact. Matthew Smith, Jr., a UM-Flint sophomore studying political science, fit’s that bill perfectly.

“I think the younger generation are the ones to lead,” said Smith.

Smith’s heritage is deeply intertwined with Genesee County, as his great grandparents moved to the area sometime around the 1950s. His father, Matthew Smith Sr., is the owner of Smith & Smith Carpet, a local flooring company. He helps his father with the family business, handling marketing and sales.

Smith graduated from Davison High School in 2015. He was involved within the school’s student government, serving as class president, and was also a part of the school’s television broadcast, Davison TV (DTV), in which he was an executive producer and head anchor. This experience helped him become one of the first reporters to cover the Flint Water Crisis. Interviews he conducted with former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling were used in current Mayor Karen Weaver’s political ads.

Smith submitted his reel to the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association (MIPA), and ended up winning Best High School Journalist in the state. He went on to win second place nationally. Three months after his high school graduation, he received a job as a news anchor for WNEM TV 5, where he worked in both Flint and Saginaw covering local news.

During this transition into adulthood, he realized he did not want to pursue broadcasting but, instead, politics.

“I think that the transition from high school to college you really get an idea of what the world is like,” said Smith.

It was during this time he realized his passion for government and law, which helped him decide his major. He started his college career at Mott Community College. During his time in high school, he was able to dual enroll and get college credit before even graduating. He felt it was best to use those credits and received a general studies associates degree.

Since then, he has transferred over to UM-Flint. Smith says he loves the school and cannot wait to get his Bachelor’s. Smith hopes to be a part of clubs in the near future, and would like to get involved with the political science department. And while politics might be seen as a topic some don’t want to talk about, Smith feels just the opposite.

The past 2016 election was something he was extremely excited for, as it was his first presidential election he would be allowed to vote in. In 2015, as all the candidates were announcing their run, Smith sat down and wrote a general letter asking to meet with each of them to discuss another one of his passions: education. He sent the letter to all the runners, including Bush, Clinton, and Bernie, but only got one response.

The respondent? Current President Donald Trump.

“Even though I might not have agreed with everything he stood for, my goal was to meet with all the candidates and talk about education, because one of them was going to be the next president,” recalls Smith.

He was able to get 60 seconds with Trump at the Birch Run expo event back in August of 2015.

“I know it was a far stretch, your first election meeting all the candidates, but it worked for at least one of them. And that one ended up becoming president,” said Smith.

Smith also got to apply the same concept with Vice President Pence and was able to meet him. According to Smith, he told him to keep doing what he was doing, because his generation was going to be the one to lead. Smith was able to attend the inauguration, as well, with it being his first trip to Washington D.C. He received three tickets to the event thanks to Senator Debbie Stabenow, and was able to see her office in Washington.

He recalls how he was captivated by the fact he was so close to all of the former presidents. Smith shares the excitement he felt that a resident from Davison would be able to attend to such a national event. One of his favorite things was all of Washington’s architecture, especially the Capitol Building.

“I think it was historical for me personally because it was my first time in Washington. It also just happened to a historical moment (in history),” said Smith.

Writing letters to influencers is something Smith is known to do, and would consider a hobby. He loves writing, and has a passion for telling people stories.

“What I did as a kid as a hobby was I would write to them (celebrities) and talk about a specific movie they were in, or a speech they gave that really touched me,” said Smith.

He would write to individuals both locally and nationally, and has a whole stack of autographs made out to him personally. Some letters were handwritten, others were typed. He has letters from Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Betty White, and more.

The letters have also gotten him exposure to reality television. While in high school, Smith enjoyed the Discovery Channel and his writing interest once again played out to his benefit, as he reached out to the individuals behind the television series “Finding Bigfoot.” He was able to make contact, and got to watch a production of the show in Munising. While there, he was able to meet Bigfoot investigators Ranae Holland, Cliff Barackman, James “Bobo” Fay, and Matt Moneymaker.

This experience landed him on local news website “The Davison Index,” which reported that Smith was able to “join Moneymaker’s Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) to aide in future investigations.”

Smith said that this experience was beneficial because he got a firsthand look at how a show would be shot, edited, and then aired, something he was doing at DTV at the time. Smith also recently revealed some big news: he is running for Davison School Board. He credits his one of his reasons for wanting to make a difference in Davison School District to his time with student government in high school.

“I think that’s where it clicked: where you can get elected, make decisions, and serve the people you love,” said Smith.

While it is a local election, he believes partisan politics are not something that need to be involved. Instead, he wants to focus on implementing policy that’s best for kids. He hopes to meet with parents and talk about topics such as funding and bullying.

“I’m running in a non-partisan race, so you don’t need to worry about politics,” said Smith. “I want to represent kids and set policy that will put them first.”

He hopes his youth, as well as previous experience with Davison schools, will help provide a fresh look for the district.

“The younger generation understands the current generation,” said Smith. “The younger generation understands right now think that’s what we need in the government, I think that’s what we need in the classroom, I think that’s what we need in pretty much every entity: youth.”

Smith believes that young people should get involved not just with local politics, but with their community as a whole. He sets a great example, and is also involved in the Flint Area Right to Life as Board Secretary, the Genesee County Executive Committee as Board Trustee, and the Genesee County Neighborhood Watch as Board President.

“We’re the ones who have to live with this country, with this school, with this church for years upon years,” said Smith. “We want to see it flourish in every aspect.”

To reach out to Smith, or to just say hello, email [email protected]