“I believe that the most effective changes come from individuals who are most impacted directly by that need for change,” says Mariah Smith, a senior at Benjamin Franklin High School.

Smith is involved with St. Raymond and St. Leo The Great Young Voices of Praise Choir, Feminist Club, Archdiocese of New Orleans Racial Sobriety Workshop, Children’s Hospital and many more volunteer projects throughout the community.

In 2017, Smith joined The Experiment in International Living Leadership Institute – India, a six-week non-governmental organization in the region. Smith spent 10 days of those six weeks with a host family.

“We concluded that it isn’t as beneficial to go into a place and insert our own alien views onto the community that we were not normally a part of. Instead we left with understanding that international aid is effective when we support the efforts that the people who live there find the most important,” says Smith.

At Ben Franklin, Smith has been involved with the Wellness Program. Michele Beloney, a social worker at Ben Franklin, helped students form the wellness program, which offered a stress-free day of rest and relaxation. The day had tai chi, yoga, boxing and different ways to manage stress. Physicians and therapists volunteered to come to Ben Franklin to give their expertise and services.

“While maintaining our school’s exceptional record of excellence, this vital program brought a new dimension to the high standards at my school, Benjamin Franklin High,” says Smith. “The program was met with great success amidst our school wide curriculum and I am thankful to graduate in May knowing that is will be a bi-annual event.”

Deacon Troy Smith, Smith’s grandfather who raised her, is “the kindest person in her life” and has inspired her to be an activist. .
Smith says, “My entire life I’ve watched him put everyone and every cause ahead of himself. (He) continues to be my best example of strength and grace through adversity. He is my constant inspiration to become better today than I was yesterday.”

Smith will attend The University of Notre Dame in the fall on the QuestBridge scholarship. She plans to major in Neuroscience and minor in Sustainability and Peace Studies. As a physician, she aspires to work with Doctors Without Borders to help others while creating her own non-governmental organization focused on creating sustainable health care resources for underserved communities.