Jacob Smith doesn’t remember the night of the car crash that seriously injured him, his Whitehouse High School advisor and other students in the SUV as they returned from a Career Technical Education contest in Corpus Christi on April 12, 2014. While Smith may not have memory of the actual event, he will never forget how that night changed his life forever.
“I could choose to be bitter or get better,” Smith said. “I chose to get better.”
Smith suffered a traumatic brain injury, broken vertebrae and other substantial injuries. He underwent facial reconstruction and was in the intensive care unit for almost two months.
Life did not return to normal for quite some time. Along with school work, Smith would make the time for physical, occupational and speech therapy for the next six months of his life. He still visits with his doctors on a regular basis. The impaired driving of one person who caused the crash changed many lives for years to come.
It was that instance, that decision, that crash that would widen the path Smith would take into his adult years.
Today, Smith is a junior at Johnson & Wales University in Denver. He is working on a double major in Business Administration and Media and Communication Studies. Also student body president, Smith is an advocate for traffic safety.
More than a speaker, Smith is a living example of how tragedy can turn for good and hopefully be a deterrent to this happening to someone else.
Traveling across the nation, Smith has told his story and urged students and adults to take responsibility for the decisions they make and that focusing on the road is more important than anything else going on in the car or around them.
“I’ve made many connections with people across the world,” Smith said. “With the United Nations, governmental agencies, the corporate world and most recently the Texas Department of Transportation.”
It was TxDOT that came to him and asked that he tell his story as part of their Talk, Text, Crash campaign. An interactive kiosk produced by TxDOT focuses on the dangers of impaired and distracted driving. It also talks about how lives can be changed in an instant.
“It’s inspiring to know what I can do across the country, around the world, to increase awareness of traffic safety to everyone, not just young people,” Smith said. “I came out of the crash alive and I have a reason to live every day.”
That reason to live is also a big part of the message that Smith shares with students – that no matter what life throws your way, make the best of it.
Smith is now a remote communications assistant with The Gillen Group, a Washington DC based boutique public relations firm that specializes in transportation safety.
After college he sees himself continuing in the traffic safety field but moving more towards overall public health. He hopes to work with the United Nations in working on public health issues.
What a journey it has been for this young scholar and activist. He hopes to always play a role in encouraging youth and others to make better choices.
“I want students of all ages to not be afraid to get out there and do something different,” Smith said. “Don’t wait for life to come to you. Explore new things and always be yourself.”
While much of his non-academic time is spent traveling and speaking he never forgets about home, about Whitehouse.
“Thanks for your continuous support,” he said. “It is so good to know I can always count on Whitehouse, Texas to support me.”