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Smith represents RHS at conference

Being a leader and making a positive impact during a student’s time in high school is something that is usually easier said than done because it’s much easier to blend into the background.
But there are those students who are willing to go the extra mile to be a role model among their peers, and one of those students is upcoming Russellville High School junior Anna Smith.
Smith, 16, was recently selected by the faculty at RHS to be the school’s representative at the Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership Conference at Troy University.
The three-day conference is a chance for students from across the state of Alabama to gather together and discuss ways they can make a difference in their own communities.
Smith said she originally thought the conference would be three days full of speakers and taking notes, but she was pleasantly surprised to find out the conference featured a lot of hands-on activities.
“All the things we did were very involved and very interactive, which is different from any conference I’ve ever been to in the past,” she said.
“They split us up into groups and we really bonded with one another as we learned about all the different kids of leadership and ways to lead.”
Smith said the interaction allowed her to make many new friends and to come out of her shell.
“Even besides all the great information me learned about leadership, the conference helped me to branch out and be more outspoken and outgoing,” she said.
“I saw how beneficial it can be to get involved and actually be part of something instead of just being off to the side.”
Smith said one of the most important things she learned was that there are different types of leadership.
“You don’t always have to be the one at the head of the group or the person out in front to be a leader,” she said.
“We learned about servant leadership, which is where you are leading by serving others in the background. That was a new concept for me because I just thought you had to be a ‘take charge’ kind of person to be a leader, but this kind of leadership is just as necessary.
“And if you learn to be this kind of a leader, it helps you learn how to get along better with others.”
Smith said another aspect of the conference that really impacted her was the discussions on service projects.
“They really encourage everyone who attends the conference to go back to their own communities and come up with a service project that will be beneficial to a large group of people,” she said.
“I immediately thought about the issues that we face, especially in high school, and I thought about teen pregnancy. That is a very serious issue and something that is becoming more and more common.
“When I began to think about this, I just thought that it all goes back to self-esteem. Our culture these days tells girls that they have to have a boyfriend or something isn’t right – that they need a man in order to be complete. But that simply isn’t the case, especially at our age.
“When all the books and movies and TV shows place such an emphasis on young girls having boyfriends, they feel they have to live up to that standard and a lot of times that leads to relationships that can result in a teen pregnancy.”
To respond to this issue, Smith said she would like for her service project to be a one-day conference for middle school-age girls that would focus on boosting self-esteem.
“I think something modeled after the way HOBY was run, with groups and interaction and discussion, would be a great start to addressing the self-esteem issues girls face,” she said. “I really think it could make a difference.”
Smith said she was thankful to have had the opportunity to attend the HOBY Leadership Conference and she hopes to go back as a HOBY alumni and impact other students who will attend the conference in the future.
“This was such a great experience that I can’t help but want to go back and help other kids be impacted the way I was,” Smith said. “You just can’t go through it and not be touched by it, and I want to bring that back to my school and my community.
“If we can just get past the stereotypes and cliques and just all come together, there’s no limit to what we can do and what kind of change we can bring about.”
For her participation in the conference and her ACT score, Smith received a $4,000 scholarship from Troy University should she decide to attend college there.
Smith is the daughter of Mike and Stephanie Mayfield and Tim and Debbie Smith.