In Profile: Kennedi Smith – Epic’s First Student Excellence Award Winner

by Presley Sullins Rains

She is a decorated archer, a Yale Global Scholar, and the founder of her very own volunteer organization.

That barely scratches the surface of Kennedi Smith’s impressive career. On top of all that, she’s also still in high school, and is now the first-ever recipient of the Epic Student Excellence Award.

Smith’s impressive resume so overflows with prestigious achievements that it could take hours to explore them all in depth.
For starters, she is Epic’s National Honor Society President, an Oklahoma City Youth Councilwoman and a decorated volunteer transcriber for the Smithsonian Institution.

“I am at most myself when I attend to the needs of others, facilitating humanity, love and hope,” Smith, an Epic senior, said. “It’s when I feel most alive and the most joy. I enjoy organizing community support, enhancement, cleanup, and educational opportunity events as I find great purpose in working in my community and advocating for the weak and vulnerable.”

Smith’s achievements are even more extraordinary when you realize she’s been fighting her entire life.
Diagnosed at birth with a neuro-muscular and neurological disorder along with other rare conditions, she has undergone 34 surgeries and many hospitalizations.

Smith serves on the Oklahoma City Youth Council, where she interacts with local officials such as Mayor David Holt (Photo Provided).

Her health is one of the reasons she ended up at Epic.

“My education while in the public school system left my mother and I in a state of helplessness,” Smith said. “I was being dropped from school enrollment every hospitalization. There was no sense of compassion, empathy or help.”

Her family found out about Epic when she was in middle school. She calls the school her saving grace – place that restored her faith in the educational system she once thought had abandoned her.

“I have developed a profound sense of confidence and humanity in an environment free from educational growth restrictions.”

It was that struggle to survive that helped drive her success: Anything that said “no, you can’t” became motivation.

“Opposition has proven to be my greatest inspiration and the bridge to my destiny,” she said. “It has given me strength and the desire to fulfill the highest and truest expression of myself. And through the well-rounded education that I have received,

I am able to truly comprehend and articulate my suffering and opposition, limit it, and change it for the better.”
Folks around her at Epic have taken notice.

“Kennedi is someone who embodies the very notion of what our Student Excellence Award represents and honors,” Superintendent Bart Banfield said in a January school board meeting announcing the first-of-its-kind award for the school. “Aside from her achievements, her character and the way she treats others are also more than noteworthy.”

Smith said she finds inspiration from Banfield as well. She hopes to model his leadership as she leads school and community organizations.

Kennedi Smith gives free archery lessons to children in the community (Photo Provided).

National Honor Society advisor Sunny Swopes and National Junior Honor Society President Daylia Williams have worked extensively with Smith within NHS, and both spoke of witnessing her impressive work ethic and leadership ability.

“Kennedi is an amazing young lady,” Swopes said. “She has led the NHS and done a wonderful job. NHS has been blessed to have her as a leader and role model for other students this year. I can’t wait to see her future as she graduates Epic.”

“I absolutely loved getting to know Kennedi this school year through NHS and NJHS,” Williams said. “It has been such a pleasure and an honor to hang out and talk to such a kind and caring person. I learned so much this year from her poise, humility, and kindness.”

One might be tempted to think her achievements might slow down once she leaves high school, but Smith says she has no plans of lowering the bar she has set for herself.

This summer, she will be in Vietnam as part of the Congress of Future Medical Leaders. The summer study abroad is part of the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists, which is an honors society for students who want to study medicine. “I want to become a neurosurgeon and, ultimately, U.S. Surgeon General,” Smith said. “It has been my lifelong dream.”

For now, “I am thrilled to share that I have accepted the admission offer to UCLA’s Letters of Science HONORS Program and the Undergrad Research and Advanced Placement Program for Excellence in Education and Research in the Sciences,” she said.

Kennedi Smith finalizes this commemoration of her achievements with an encouragement to readers to strive for greatness no matter what stands in the way.

“I hope that my reception of the student excellence award is an inspiration and motivation for all to know that no matter how arduous or oppressive the circumstance, it is possible to transcend and achieve some fantastic things.” Smith said.

Above: Smith and Epic Superintendent Bart Banfield display her award (Photo Provided).

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