Torrey Smith Named NFLPA Community MVP
Smith Dedicates Reading Room at Baltimore-Area High School
Editor’s Note: The NFLPA Community MVP recognizes players who are making a positive impact in their local communities. Each week, the NFLPA will celebrate one player who recently demonstrated his commitment to giving back to his community, and will make a donation to the player’s foundation in support. This week’s #CommunityMVP is Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, who on Monday morning donated his second Reading Room to Baltimore-area Benjamin Franklin High School.
The Torrey Smith Foundation is one of the most active foundations among the hundreds of NFL player charities giving back to local communities. Smith’s foundation holds programs and events year round and is dedicated to a variety of causes aiding children in the Baltimore area.
His foundation’s Back to School Program each August provides low-income children with backpacks filled with school supplies. During the holiday season, Smith’s Turkey Bowl provides a full Thanksgiving meal to families in need. And in honor of his late brother, Tevin Jones, Smith’s foundation awards four annual scholarship funds to deserving area high school seniors.
On Monday, Smith dedicated a Reading Room at Benjamin Franklin High School, giving its students a literacy oasis. The Torrey Smith Foundation spent the day decorating and stocking the room with books, culminating with Smith and his family cutting the ribbon to mark the room’s official dedication. Six students were also recognized by Smith and his foundation, earning a place in Smith’s Reading Ring of Honor for achievements in reading and Smith’s Community Service Ring of Honor for achievements in volunteerism.
Painted on the wall of the reading room is a quote from Smith that reads: “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.”
Smith wants the room to be a safe haven for students, a “reading oasis” that will inspire students to get excited about reading. The Reading Room, made possible through a grant from the PwC Charitable Foundation, will service 447 students at Benjamin Franklin High and provide them access to more than 700 age-appropriate books, electronic readers and a comfortable place to read.
“This program was very special to me because often times high schools gets over looked,” Smith told NFLPlayers.com. “To see the excitement in their faces and to be able to offer them a safe haven or oasis to keep them focused on the end goal, was just really special to me and my wife.”
Smith chose Benjamin Franklin High for his second reading room project after discovering that it had recently undergone a dramatic academic transformation, including offering two advanced placement courses and making a commitment to develop “Academic Pride.”
The importance of academics and taking pride in hard work was instilled in Smith as a child by his mother, Monica Jenkins, and is inherent in all he does today as a man and a professional football player. She worked two jobs while attending nursing classes, an example for a young Smith who had to grow up quickly to help raise his younger siblings. He would help with the laundry, bathe and feed his siblings while his mom tried to catch up on the little sleep she could get between her busy schedule.
Through it all, Smith’s mother still found time to teach her children morals and help them with their studies. However, anything less than a B on his report card was unacceptable and would result in the revocation of certain privileges, football included.
His experiences as a child are the inspiration for The Torrey Smith Foundation. He’s long had an innate desire to help and care for children hailing from less-than ideal circumstances and to encourage them to take their education seriously.
“Football just happens to be my career for right now, but my proudest accomplishment is earning my degree from the University of Maryland,” Smith said. “No one can take that away from me. Football, however, has given me the platform to connect with kids and make them understand that if you put education at the forefront, you will always be a winner.”
The Torrey Smith Foundation has plans to launch a third reading room in the spring and has a number of community events on the horizon. He will host his foundation’s second annual Celebrity Waiter Night Fundraiser on November 18. In March, he will again team up with Ryan Kerrigan’s Blitz for the Better Foundation for their annual Battle of the Beltway Celebrity Basketball Game.
— Rob Troiano