Mar 15

Wesley Smith receives the Champion for Youth Award

Published on: Friday, March 15, 2013

The University of St. Thomas School of Law’s Community Justice Project is presenting its annual symposium on March 20, 2013, entitled: “How Are the Children? Part VI: Re-Imagining Public Education in Minnesota.” It will bring together community leaders, social workers, educators, and others within the juvenile justice field to discuss their experiences concerning racial and socioeconomic equity in education and develop strategies to improve these conditions as our society moves forward.

Each year, the Community Justice Project takes time out of the program to recognize a dynamic and dedicated individual or organization by awarding them the Champion for Youth award. This distinction is given to one who makes a significant difference in the lives of youth. This year’s award recipient is Wesley Smith of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Mr. Smith is the Founder of local nonprofit “Drop Outs to Drop Ins” and has been credited with helping over 200 Minnesota students re-enroll in school. Early on, he secured temporary contracts to increase enrollment for K-8 schools. He described his encounters with students who were not enrolled in school by saying it felt like those former students were like lepers within society. Smith then urged the students to contact him, at which point, he assisted them with re-enrolling in school . To this day, Smith continues his work without funding, hoping that the work will one day become a model for schools nationwide. “If I keep doing the work, success will follow, I’m confident about that[,]” Smith recently told an interviewer.

Mr. Smith and his work attracted the attention of film director Robert Townsend, who came to Minneapolis to meet Mr. Smith and to screen his new film “In The Hive” (A true story) which is about teen-age boys who could not make it in the traditional school system and were afforded another opportunity in a charter school started by a woman who cared. “ I wanted to meet her because there are not enough schools to house these kids who are willing to take a chance on non-traditional schools,” said Smith. Townsend has since endorsed the program and told Smith that this body of work was what he was meant to do. Smith is compelled by knowing that he stands to change thousands of lives through persevering down the path that he is currently on and building upon it.

We congratulate Mr. Wesley Smith on the powerful and inspiring work he has done to help youth get back on the right track towards a successful future. 

This year’s symposium will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the School of Law’s Atrium. Panel discussion will focus on the following: 1) The Black Boys’ Burden: Educational Equity and Cultural Challenges in the Classroom; 2) The Space Between: Gaps in Discipline, Expulsion, and Special Education; and 3) Lifting as We Climb: What Works and How We Can Help. CLE credits, Rule 114 Qualified Neutral Credits, and CEU credits have been applied for.

For more information about the Symposium, please contact the University of St. Thomas’ Legal Services clinic at

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