EDITOR’S NOTE: As of Friday, Sept. 14, the Tri County Leader was informed Jacob Smith accepted a full-time position with FCCLA and is now serving on their national staff.
From participating in leadership opportunities in high school to establishing his own consulting firm where he works with national nonprofit organizations in advocacy, Jacob Smith remains passionate about promoting safety issues and youth leadership.
“I am currently right now with various organizations. Most of them are youth participating organizations,” Smith stated. “Back in high school at Whitehouse High School, I was involved with FCCLA, which is Family, Career and Community Leaders of America. I went from serving as a national officer on the board of directors and now they are actually one of my clients. The organization is pretty strong in a lot of subjects, but ultimately it prepares students to make an impact in their families, careers and communities.”
Though he always considered going into a field of advocacy, he couldn’t imagine how large a part he would play or on how grand a stage he would perform.
“My biggest thing is mobilizing young people beyond safety,” Smith affirmed. “Safety is my passion and specifically traffic safety or road safety. Back in high school I was part of a few different organizations I still stay connected with but I never thought I would be on this scale in really being instrumental in mobilizing communities.”
Many might remember Smith as the high school student who, along with a teacher and another student, was hospitalized following a vehicle accident while returning from an FCCLA event in Corpus Christi in April 2014. It was his junior year.
As a result of the traumatic brain injury he suffered in that accident, Smith cannot drive himself. Yet, as he once wrote and still believes, we all have a choice “to get bitter or get better.”
He uses his experience to help others avoid suffering preventable road traffic deaths or the injuries resulting from such preventable accidents. Smith declares it is still his driving passion.
“I know every day there is someone my age that dies that could have been prevented. If they didn’t die, they are living with emotional, physical and mental changes that they could have avoided or someone else could have prevented,” he declared. “We should have a generation where students don’t have to say goodbye to their classmates their senior year.”
In an effort to make that desire a reality, Smith also works with YOURS, Youth for Road Safety.
“It is one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced,” Smith stated. “This organization is based in the Netherlands and I have always admired what they do. Its focus is to put youth on the decision making table on the local, state and national level regarding youth and road safety because we are the most affected, the most vulnerable age group globally.They implement a range of initiatives to empower young people as well as create an environment where young people can take responsibility for their lives and act to make the roads safer for their peers and themselves.”
“I am essentially the leading voice when it comes to global issues and representing our region,” he stated when asked about his involvement. “I am also focusing on how we can mobilize more youth advocates in the United States.”
Smith discussed the reasons for his passion to involve youth and it wasn’t simply because they are an at-risk demographic.
“Youth have an innovative and fresh perspective, not that anyone else doesn’t, but they are the future leaders and future decision-makers so we’re doing ourselves a disservice if we’re not including our future leaders at the table,” he explained.
Due to his advocacy efforts, Smith is one of six to be honored with the Unsung Heroes of Highway Safety award Thursday, Sept. 13, in Washington D.C. at the Russell Senate office building.
“The Ford Driving Skills for Life and the Governors Highway Safety Association, which is the leading organization that [represents] highway safety offices across the United States are honoring six leaders who have distinguished themselves as leaders in the traffic safety field through passion and education,” Smith explained about the award.
Being named as one of the honorees appeared to catch Smith a little by surprise.
“It’s extremely honorable because being only 21, I consider myself new to the field,” he commented. “It’s an honor for someone to recognize me for the accomplishments I’ve made and the impact I’ve made in communities thus far.”