Mike Smith Explains the Secret to Being Selfless
This year’s first motivational speaker, Mike Smith, started by telling a packed Joe Flores Gym on Aug. 16 how fake he was during high school. He calls himself a professional teenager.
He sure dresses as a teenager; his tangled hair peeks out from under a baseball cap. A skateboard would have completed his attire.
Smith operates a hipster coffee shop. He provides opportunities for work as baristas in his coffee houses to victims of sex violence or sex trafficking, high school dropouts or foster teens. Following his passion for skateboarding, he is launching a skateboarding school in 2018. He’s on a mission to help others. He began that mission as a teen himself.
“I wanted to keep helping people so I sat down one night and I googled how to start a nonprofit. I printed off a checklist… and built the world’s first ever non-profit skate park… It’s a skate park, coffee shop, concert venue, park space,” Mike said. “And we don’t serve regular coffee.”
Some students in the audience took his message to heart.
“I heard his message, and I really should stop blaming everyone for my problems and start taking responsibility for it,” junior Majesty Aleman said. “I plan on helping out the community by helping out the less fortunate such as donating, participating in food drives, and also donating food to the animals in the shelter, of course!”
Before starting eighth grade, Smith and his family moved from the big city to a small, isolated town in Nebraska. It really was tiny.
“There are more cows than humans [there],” Smith said. He didn’t fit in at first. It wasn’t until his sophomore year, when he joined the basketball team, that he felt accepted. But then he turned arrogant and selfish. That didn’t last long.
The summer before senior year, Mike’s father announced his diagnosis of cancer. Mike could only ponder: “If my little man doesn’t survive this cancer thing, is he going to be proud of me?” Mike felt fake; he acted one way at school, another with his parents, and another with his friends. He wanted to change. It came in the form of Calvin.
When Mike and Calvin met, neither was fond of the other. Friendship took several attempts. In the beginning Calvin gave Mike a cold shoulder. But once Mike apologized for his prideful demeanor, the two became inseparable.
“I spent the rest of my senior year of high school fighting for this kid. We made a list of 100 things he wanted to do before we graduated high school that did not involve any drugs… we tried to break as much of the Guinness Book of World Records…”
This year makes four years since Mike brought Calvin into his family.
“I don’t care about being an athlete, I’m going to be someone,” Mike said. During college Mike was introduced to a group of homeless people by his coach.
“It was tent city,” Mike said. He greeted a homeless man who said that he needed socks. He removed his boots and revealed a pair of swollen, black, and gnarled feet. Mike ran back to campus, grabbed the volleyball girls Adidas socks and began handing them out to the homeless people.
“I didn’t do it once, I didn’t do it twice, and zero times did I put in a resume or application that I was walking under a bridge,” Mike said. Adidas sent him thousands of socks over the next few years. There were a few students that hope to continue his legacy.
Aleman hopes to follow in his footsteps by helping out in the soup kitchen and the community. “When I’m older — and hopefully very rich — I’ll be able to donate to charities that are doing their best to help those in need and working to fight illnesses such as cancer,” Aleman said.