Alexis Smith

Alexis Smith, Dothan High's 2011 valedictorian and a Harvard graduate, will speak at Hawk-Houston Youth Enrichment Center's "Hold Fast to Dreams" event on Dec. 19.

In the past several years, Dothan High alum Alexis Smith has experienced several moments of surrealism in places some didn’t know existed.

“I used to dream about going to remote villages and offering health care,” she said. “I was in Papua New Guinea, and (my group was) looking for a place (to help). I had a moment. It was an answered prayer. I was standing in a dream I once had.”

Smith has accomplished much in her short life — graduating from one Ivy League school (Harvard) before attending another (Columbia) for her master’s degree in public health. Her journey led Altha Newman, the Hawk-Houston Youth Enrichment Center’s executive director, to ask her to encourage area high schoolers to pursue their goals in education during the “Hold Fast to Dreams” event that occurs Dec. 19 at 5:30 p.m.

“We’re trying very hard to reach as many high school students as we can to help them achieve a college education,” Newman said. “They may not know how to do it, or they may not even have a dream of higher education. We want to show them someone who did it.”

Smith says her achievements stem from a few concepts, including working for a higher purpose than herself.

“I think it shows the importance of being rooted in something bigger than yourself,” she said. “When the dream is not about yourself, it gives you the substance to weather the storms that come. I’m truly not that special. The Lord’s been good to me.”

Smith is pursuing a master’s degree in public health in an effort to learn more about the impact socio-economic situations play in health care. Her hope is to implement changes that improve the overall well-being of communities everywhere, including her hometown.

“People make the decisions between food and medicine monthly,” Smith said. “I know what that looks like. I’ve seen that firsthand in my family. Home is why I do this.”

The 2011 Dothan High valedictorian also notes that people cannot accomplish their goals without a little help along the way.

“You cannot do it by yourself, (even if) it’s just someone along the way who believed in you,” she said. “There are people that will help you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

For more information about the event, call 792-4618 or visit www.hawkhoustonyec.org. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP by Dec. 12.

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