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Senior Marquis Smith Receives AllState Give Back Day Hero Award


Photo by Kerry-Ann Hamilton
AllState Give Back Day Hero Honoree Marquis Smith reads with his 9-year-old mentee Rico Smith.

WASHINGTON (January 18, 2010) – While many of his peers slept in on Martin Luther King Day, Marquis Smith was up before dawn preparing for an interactive literacy program for school-aged children at Burr Gymnasium on the campus of Howard University.

It was a day on, not a day off, for the 29-year-old servant leader.

Smith was recently named as one of four national AllState Give Back Day Heroes. The inaugural award honors individuals who exemplify King’s lifelong commitment to service. His advisor Lisa Reeves in the Division of Student Life and Activities nominated him late last year.

“I am so humbled by this award,” Smith said. “It was such as an honor for me to travel to Atlanta and attend the King Center's annual Salute to Greatness awards dinner. I was among some of the greatest leaders in America.”

As part of his award, AllState funded a community service project coordinated by Smith. He partnered with The Heart for America Foundation and Howard University for an educational event to celebrate one of the Civil Rights Leader’s strongest ideals – service.

“We are very proud of Marquis, he truly has a spirit to give,” said Angela Halamandaris, co-founder and president of the Heart of America Foundation.

In addition to maintaining a 3.8 grade point average, Smith serves as president of the School of Education student council and interns with the Heart for America Foundation as well volunteers with various organizations locally and nationally.

From a young age, Smith was dedicated to community service and helping others. As a middle school student growing up in Racine, Wisc., Smith volunteered at the nursing home across from his playground. He wanted to help the elderly and to also avoid negative peer pressure.

After high school, Smith and his mother relocated to Baton Rouge, La. He served three years in the Army where he was stationed in Germany and completed a year and half tour in Iraq. A month following his return to the United States, Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and New Orleans in particular. He rolled up his sleeves again and got to work.

“I gave up my house to family I have never met and slept on an air mattress at a friend’s house,” Smith said. “I immediately started to do clothing and toy drives for families affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.”

Despite the difficult recovery from the storms, Smith stayed focused and earned an associate degree from Baton Rouge Community College. In addition to being the first in his family to serve in the military, he was the first to earn a degree. He is scheduled to graduate this May with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development with an emphasis on child and adolescent development.

During the program, each child who attended the workshop received two free books to take home and parents received resource materials. The day also included games focused on Civil Rights giants, face painting as well as one-on-one and group-reading sessions with area children led by volunteers from Howard, Allstate and the Heart for America Foundation.

“This is our second year of the AllState Give Back Day and we wanted participate in a service project that meant a lot to our honoree,” said Adam Polack, senior communication consultant for AllState. “This was also a perfect way for our employees to give back on a work day and honor Dr. King’s Legacy.”

Latasha Carter from Southeast Washington, D.C. learned about the event through her son’s school.

“I wanted my kids to get out the house and for them to learn something,” said Carter, who brought her three children as well as her niece and nephew to the event.

Smith plans to author a book for single parents, especially for African American mothers. He sees several parallels between his struggles and other Black boys in America from broken homes with family members incarcerated.

“I want to make a difference,” Smith said. “I want to own and operate an NGO [non-governmental organization] designed to support the homeless, the elderly and help dropouts earn their GED.”

Halamandaris said Smith and Howard students are leading by example. “They are sending a strong message to these young people about the importance of education and also giving back,” she said.

Smith and his Rico Smith mentee (no relation) adorned a School of Education t-shirt with one of the quotes he lives by, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all."

 

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