ECHS senior traveled the globe over summer
By By Adam Prestridge
Escambia County High School senior Tray Smith has been busy this summer preparing for his future in politics.
Smith, a 17-year-old senior at Escambia County High School, was chosen as one of 16 American teenagers to travel to Amman, Jordan as part of the Youth Initiative for Progress in Iraq, a conference between those American teens and 16 Iraqi teenagers. The initiative was intended to bring reconciliation between the youth of both countries, Smith said.
The conference was held at King’s Academy, an elite boarding school just outside of Amman, Jordan. The United World Colleges, a group of boarding schools throughout the world that exist to unify young people from across the globe, and Princeton University, sponsored the conference. A group of Princeton and UWC students from several different countries facilitated the discussions.
According to Smith, participants talked in-depth about the history of the war and produced a statement of intent calling on action from the international community to address five issues in Iraq: Education, Civil Society, Security, Infrastructure and Reconciliation.
Additionally, the teens toured the historic Jordanian sites of Mt. Nebo and Petra, where “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” was filmed and other sites.
Smith said the conference was a life changing experience for him.
Smith hopes that the efforts made during the two-week conference will make a difference and help unify the nation.
In fact, Smith was intrigued by how similar the Iraqi teens were to the Americans visiting.
But Smith couldn’t have had this once-in-a-lifetime experience without the help of some of his political idols.
“I really want to thank Congressman Bonner, again, because his support has been essential to all of my endeavors,” Smith said. “Had I not paged, I would not have been able to go to this conference. Each of those events broadened my perspective of the world in a very positive way. I also want to thank the students who planned and facilitated the conference. It was an entirely youth initiated, youth ran event, and it was the first such event in the history of the U.S.- Iraq conflict. The Iraqis there risked their lives to come to the conference and work with American teenagers, so they deserve special recognition. Finally, I would like to thank the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce for providing Atmore t shirts for me to take to Iraq and present as gifts, and Mayor Shell, who gave me Atmore lapel pins to distribute.”
Since coming home in late July, Smith said his efforts are focused on fulfilling his duties accomplished in Iraq in America.
Smith was also a representative for Escambia County at Boys State held in Tuscaloosa in early June, attended Boy Scout camp in DeFuniak Springs, Fla. in late June where he worked to put the final touches on obtaining his Eagle Scout rank and is planning to attend the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, Minn. in September.