His father died, his mother is fighting throat cancer; within the past three years, he and the family have moved five times.
None of it brought Smith down, however. The Yates High senior has just found out he's been accepted at West Point.
"It's a major accomplishment when you consider the adversity he's faced," says Major Edward Johnson, Smith's JROTC instructor. "But throughout it all he has maintained a positive outlook and academic excellence in his grades."
"I am so excited and my mother is so proud," Smith says. "I think my father, if he was alive, would be proud too. I am the first one in my family to go to college."
Smith says he hadn't been thinking about college initially. "I knew I wanted to go into the military but it was my best friend's father, a former Marine, who convinced me that college was just as important," he says.
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Smith has been living with that ex-Marine's family since Hurricane Ike. "It was a total team effort," he says. "I didn't do this all by myself, a lot of people helped and mentored me along the way."
Smith's adventure begins in July with an eight-month prep program, and he'll formally start classes in 2011.
"I learned in Junior Achievement that everyone should have a noble purpose in life. I think mine is to lead a troop of soldiers," he says.
Pretty big year for Yates: a state basketball title and a West Point scholarship. Lion Pride...