By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis man is being recognized by Mayor R.T. Rybak for his efforts to get kids off the streets and back in school.

Since 2006, Wes Smith has made it his mission to walk the streets of Minneapolis and help kids who have dropped out or separated from school.

He wants them to drop back in.

Wes Smith says he wants to empower young people to make a decision to change their lives.

That’s why he has dedicated more than seven years of his life to helping kids come to the conclusion that education is the only way to a better life.

“What I do is turn drop outs into drop ins,” Smith said.

One corner, one community, one kid at a time.

Smith’s mission is to get kids who left school for whatever reason, to think about going back.

“If they are in school it’s a crime deterrent, it could be a pregnancy prevention it could lead to more enrollment in colleges,” Smith said.

His goal, to empower young people to give up what the streets have to offer in exchange for an education and a better tomorrow.

“They already feel like lepers or something, like that they feel like nobody wants them, rejected,” he said. “I accept them and tell them that the dream that they conceived in truth is something that can live.”

Smith’s journey began seven years ago when he recruited students for private and charter schools.

“In recruiting students I would see teenagers left out there and it started by me asking, ‘do you want to go back to school?’ and if so, I’d go over and talk to a principal over here and there so I established relationships,” Smith said.

Relationships that have led to more than 200 kids getting back in school, almost all have worked to get their diploma and more than half are now in college.

“I don’t promise you a job, I don’t promise them the pie in the sky at the end of the rainbow. Again, my guarantee is the more you become educated, the better decisions you will make for yourself. When we talk about the future, they are the future. If we don’t invest in them, then what do we have,” said Smith.

Smith gets no money for his work, he is not even funded by the city, state or federal government.

That’s one big reason the city will recognize his work.

The recognition ceremony will be held Thursday at the neighborhood hub at Oliver and Lowry avenues.


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