Professional Teenager: Meet Mike SmithHe travels the country spreading his philosophy
“I’m not really a motivational speaker. I’m a professional teenager.”
That is the self-appointed job title of Mike Smith: speaker, consultant and ambassador. Smith spends his days traveling the country motivating others to change, helping businesses get started and giving back to the community.
He started out as a skateboarder-turned-athletic star in a small Nebraska town, and now runs several non-profit organizations, including The BAY and Skate for Change. His story begins with a boy he met in high school named Calvin. Putting his popular jock title aside, Smith took Calvin under his wing and learned the value of kindness.
“My passion for humanitarianism started the first time I went under a bridge to help a homeless person,” Smith said. “I realized how important it is to see people that not everyone sees and to extend kindness to people who don’t always get a kind word. I’ve always loved the underdog and the hero story, and not that I’m a hero, but I like to stick up for the underdog. I think homeless people need a voice.”
Smith’s philosophy centers around two ideas he learned in high school. Working hard stemmed from his desire to make it out of his small town by practicing basketball every morning in the gym to perfect his skills and being kind blossomed from his connection with Calvin and spreading positivity throughout his high school.
A few years after leaving high school in 2013, Smith opened The BAY, his first business, which is a center for teens to have a place to be, something to do and have someone looking out for them.
“I create, hustle, work hard and fly a lot,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of non-profit work, dreaming and creating opportunities for others. It’s hard because I have so many things that I do, but those are the words I would say.”
Soon after opening The BAY, Smith began skating around town every Tuesday on his lunch break providing meals to the homeless. His friends took note and began joining him, leading to the first chapter of Skate for Change. Through this, Smith has made valuable friendships similar to ones he made in high school, such as with Calvin.
“The best stuff is the people that I meet; people who want to change their communities, their families or their own lives,” Smith said. “To me, it’s exciting to say ‘We’re doing something we’ve never done before’ and to create things that have never been created before. That’s fun, so meeting those people that believe that is really special.”
Like any occupation, Smith still experiences drawbacks, and he is learning to overcome these obstacles, like when he had no idea how to run a non-profit or faced judgement for being a skateboarder.
“I admire everything Mike Smith has created to spread his message of speaking for the silent and standing for the broken,” senior Angelica Mayor said. “Working with him is such an honor because I’m in the presence of such an incredibly inspiring entrepreneur. I hope to work with him even more in the future!”
He hopes to see his organizations maintain their upward spiral, continually impacting others and coming up with more ways to positively change people’s lives. He makes stops at high schools several times a month to share his story, meets with budding businesses to give advice and advises Skate for Change chapters on how to help the community.
“I want Skate for Change to be something that happens all over the planet, which is already on its way,” Smith said. “I want to open up more of my youth facilities, The BAY, across the country. I want to be able to say ‘yes’ to incredible opportunities and to continue to push forward when big opportunities come my way. The sky’s the limit is what it feels like.”