MIDDLETON, NS - Derek Smith is in his final year at Middleton Regional High School, and he’s making the most of it.
As if his recent accomplishment of becoming a contender at the world powerlifting championships this coming June wasn’t enough, he can add becoming a recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Respectful Citizenship Award to his resume.
The award ceremony took place on May 10 at Citadel High School in Halifax, where the award was presented by Education Minister Zach Churchill and Lt.-Gov.Arthur LeBlanc.
Smith says he was honoured to receive the award
“It’s honestly hard to put into words the gratitude I have for receiving this award,” he said.
He added winning the award has helped him realize the positive impacts of his actions.
Saying that winning the award has “opened my eyes and made me realize that even though you may not feel like you’re making a difference in people’s lives, you actually really are.”
About the award
The award is presented to nominees in Primary to Grade 12 who have demonstrated leadership and commitment to creating and supporting safe and inclusive spaces in schools and/or communities in Nova Scotia. Smith was given the award in recognition of his leadership skills and his commitment to Middleton Regional High School, which he demonstrates by taking part in a tremendous number of volunteer activities.
He’s a member of the students’ council, the graduation committee chairman, and actively volunteers with the debate team and at school recreation events, such as dances. Smith also demonstrated a commitment to ensuring students with special needs are included, respected, and valued as members of the school community. One example is through his involvement with Unified Sports Basketball.
“It’s a program that allows students with special needs within the school to come out once a week to a basketball practice run by students,” Smith explained. “We play around and teach them the fundamentals of basketball, then they have a big tournament at the end of the year. It’s a fun opportunity for people that don’t always get to be involved in competitive sports to come out and compete.”
Bonny Hubley, Smith’s English teacher, nominated him for this award on behalf of his school. She says he seemed like the perfect fit.
“When I was forwarded the information about the award, he was the first student who came to my mind,” said Hubley. “Because, sometimes, promoting, among other things, a positive space for students and adults is not always about doing one tremendously ingenious thing or event. It is about every day, welcoming staff, students, and community members and treating everyone with respect and making their day a bit brighter.”
His positive attitude goes a long way, she added.
"Derek welcomes new students to our school very well, he takes them under his wing, he tries to show them why Middleton is a great place to be, how they should behave, what’s expected here." - Bonny Hubley
“Derek welcomes new students to our school very well, he takes them under his wing, he tries to show them why Middleton is a great place to be, how they should behave, what’s expected here,” Hubley explained. “And he does the same thing with his peers, he leads them with dignity all the time, but holds them to a high standard and wants them to represent themselves well.”
He is friendly with both his peers and school staff, she says.
“He is so personable. Before I knew him, he knew who I was as a teacher and would say, ‘Good morning, Ms. Hubley’ to me in the hall or outside,” she said. “I think that’s what makes our school a better place and our community a better place, and knowing that that friendly person is always there to help and to guide you and to set a good example.”
His leadership skills, she said, are demonstrated every day at the school.
“He leads quietly when necessary, works well in a group, but he can lead a team and pull them together, co-ordinate events,” she said. “He is respectable to everyone all the time.”
That translates into becoming a role model for younger students, who turn to him for guidance in settings like school dances.
“He could be in the cafeteria and two kids are starting to argue with each other, he is the kind of student that would go over and say, ‘hey what’s going on, everybody calm down, this isn’t how we do things here.’ And that sort of thing,” Hubley said. “So, having him around is almost like having another professional around to keep an eye on things.”
Aside from making his school a better place, Smith has also spent a considerable amount of time helping his community. He has volunteered at a local nursing home, the hospital, and as a member of the community health board. His motivation? He says he “just realized that helping the older generations and people who are sick is something that I want to do.”
He also has a passion for helping children, and plans to work this summer with the Middleton Recreation staff as a day camp leader.
“I think it’ll be a fun summer. I’m pretty good with kids, and sometimes I like being five years old again, so it should be fun.” he said.
In the fall, Smith will head to St. F.X. University to begin working on his bachelor’s degree in science and nursing.
Smith says getting this award has shown him that small good deeds do add up, and anyone can make a positive difference in the lives of those around them just by doing the little things. He plans to continue being a leader and helping people once he moves onto university.