The ninth grade at Spanish Springs High School kicked off with Smith “doing things she shouldn’t be doing as young as she was” which eventually led to her skipping school, neglecting homework and continually failing exams.
“I didn’t have a lot of friends so I began to lean on the older people I knew and that got me into a lot of trouble,” Smith said of her freshman year.
Not long into her sophomore year, Smith began experimenting with drugs and alcohol, which pushed her to the limit of what her body could take. She cited a near-death instance of alcohol abuse where she recorded a 0.286 blood alcohol level as the low point of her turmoil.
“That was when it hit me that I can’t do this anymore,” she said. “I am a freshman mentor now to keep them from making the mistakes that I did because it is hard.”
Smith is only months away from completing a full 180-degree spin on her academic life, and the transformation in her personal life has been drastically altered. In addition to her heavy class schedule making up for lost credits, Smith said her time in the Freshman Mentoring Program has been a way for her to really help incoming freshman understand what they are up against.
“When I was a freshman, we didn’t really have a lot of guidance and someone to tell us ‘don’t do this, or don’t do that,”’ Smith said. “I ran into some trouble because I didn’t have that, and it is all about making friends and being there for someone. I wanted to do it because I love helping people. I wanted to be a tutor and I wanted to see the freshman class be a good class and be smart and graduate. It’s kind of like a big sister type thing.”
Examining her first couple years at Spanish Springs High, Smith was able to list the many things she would have done differently.
“If I could actually go back and redo high school, the biggest change would be going to school, doing my homework, hanging out with the right people and getting more involved in sports,” she said. “I was a volleyball player and I gave that up because I got into trouble. It is all about motivation and knowing what you want to do. You have to go into high school with a plan. You need to have good friends, stay active, be really involved, get a job and taking care of things that need to be taken care of.”
Smith said she plans to attend Truckee Meadows Community College and the Fire Academy after high school where she will set her sights on becoming a firefighter paramedic. Her desire to save the lives of other stems from her past experiences, time spent as a lifeguard during the summer, her completion of CPR training done and the chance to save a life.
“I have been at a few parties where I was the designated driver and somebody drank too much and no one would take her to the hospital. So I put my hand down her throat and did CPR on her on the spot and then we had her taken to the hospital,” Smith said. “I have the stomach for it and I have the passion for it. You have to be an emotionally strong person and it all comes with experience and actually feeling something yourself to be able to do that, and that is what I think will carry me through it.”
Smith said she would like to take her career to the Bay Area, or a bigger city than Sparks, because “there is a lot more action there.” She said the chance to save lives would be more abundant in a shore-side setting, even though it would bring more gruesome calls.
“I want to be there by the beach where there are accidents and shark attacks and I want to see all of those things,” Smith said. “I am not looking forward to death or seeing people undergo those things, but I am looking forward to the moments where I can save someone.”
Outside of school Smith enjoys yoga and pilates fitness, songwriting and music, photography and art. She said each of her hobbies serve as a great way to relieve stress and maintain a strong, healthy mind.
“(Fitness) helps with the stress, it makes me emotionally healthy, more restful. I am calm and tolerant about things, I have great self esteem and it is something I love to do,” Smith said. “The older you get the more your mentality changes and I am not into the whole party scene anymore, which is what I am trying to lead the freshman out of. But you never realize the things around you and it is something I catch through a camera lens and I really love.
“It is not something I want to major in. It is something I like to do for myself because you have to find hobbies to do for yourself.”