BALTIMORE — “You can’t control where you come from or your family situation, but you can control your future by making smart decisions and furthering your education.”
Those are the words of Baltimore Ravens wide receiver, Torrey Smith painted on the wall of a reading room that the Torrey Smith Foundation in partnership with the PWC Charitable Foundation dedicated to Benjamin Franklin High School in Baltimore.
Smith says that the story at Benjamin Franklin High School is what made him select it as the location for the reading room dedication. The school has seen a vast turn around in academics and is now able to offer two Advanced Placement courses. The focus is on developing what school officials refer to as “Academic Pride.”
Many know Torrey Smith as a professional football player, but there is much more to him than that. He understands the big picture and knows that he has a responsibility to help his community. Football is simply a platform by which he can do so.
“I feel like it’s our responsibility to do this. People are always going to highlight the negative. Right now, there are probably four or five stories in the league that everyone is talking about. Today and Tuesday there are probably a hundred guys doing community service things but no one will talk about that, only the negative things. I am just proud to be one of the many good guys in the league who are helping the community,” Smith said.
Torrey Smith is a person who really gets it. He knows that his message is not relevant if he doesn’t practice what he actually preaches. That’s why he has taken on a new challenge— balancing his cell phone and a book.
“I’ve been talking to kids about reading and the importance of it and I have started to challenge myself. I’ve been reading [for recreation] now more than I ever have, whether it’s a self-help book or just something that helps me to learn how people become successful,” said Smith. “I understand that I have to continue reading and if I am going to preach to someone about how important it is to read, I need to do so myself.”
The last book Torrey Smith read is “21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader” by John Maxwell.
Smith says the excitement young children have for reading needs to continue into high school because “better readers become better writers, better writers become better communicators, and better communicators become better leaders.”
Smith told the students to take advantage of the room because it’s a blessing and it is only going to help down the road when it’s time to get a job and enter the real world.
The reading room contains over 700 books and will serve 447 students at the high school. There are also electronic readers in the room. The room is referred to as a literacy oasis. It was made possible through a grant from the PWC Charitable Foundation. Barnes & Noble provided the books. Other sponsors include: Duron Paint Company; Creative Access; Scholastic and the Home Depot.
Six students from Benjamin Franklin High School were honored for their achievements in “community volunteerism.” They were accepted into Torrey’s Community Service Ring of Honor.
Torrey Smith is an example of how a person can be focused on the big picture and not be held back by obstacles that get in the way of success. He says that “it’s all about understanding that it’s not about where you come from or what situation that you deal with. It’s more about how you work to overcome it. You have to stay focused on what you can control, where you want to be.”
The Torrey Smith Foundation has a mission to “better the lives of Baltimore area youth by providing educational support, opportunities and resources.” The foundation offers four signature programs that include a Reading Oasis and a Back to School Drive. The Teaming Up With Torrey program gives fans a unique opportunity to work with him to help the community in Baltimore. There is also a scholarship program, the Tevin Jones Scholarship Fund, which is in honor of his late brother. The scholarship recipients receive $5,000 that is distributed over four years to help absorb the cost of higher education.
To learn more about the Torrey Smith Foundation, visit: TorreySmith.org