A recent Wyoming Area graduate is taking her life experiences and molding them into her higher education and pre-career paths, and she’ll bolster her resume by participating in a popular intellectual speaking series.
Emily Smith, 19, of Exeter, is currently a sophomore at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., but she’ll travel back to her home state Nov. 5 to be a featured speaker at TEDx Erie, an independently organized event in the vein of the TED non-profit organization summits devoted to “ideas worth spreading.”
Smith studies psychology at George Mason University, but in her free time, she’s an advocate for mental health and disability rights, two subjects with which she has personal experience.
“Growing up, my mother was a prescription drug addict,” Smith said. “She left when I was 12.”
The theme of TEDx Erie is “Don’t Give Up The Ship,” and speakers will discuss their own stories of struggle, diligence and perseverance.
Smith plans to share her early-life story as a segue into a lecture on generational cycles of addiction, which affect multiple generations of families who are exposed to drug and alcohol abuse by both biological and environmental factors.
The young scholar used her personal experience as motivation to study psychology, and she plans to be an adolescent drug counselor after she furthers her education in graduate school. She also understands the power of sharing ideas.
“I’m a firm believer in great social movements to encourage people to talk about their lives and experiences,” Smith said.
Smith relays the lessons she’s learned through her personal journey on a regular basis, by writing for the university-wide publication, “The Odyssey.”
Smith also volunteers with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, has lobbied on Capitol Hill for complex rehab technology and other disability issues. She mentors children with disabilities and works with youth literacy foundations.
Her advocacy for disability rights stems from her experiences with her father, Mark Smith, who has cerebral palsy and is the general manager of public relations for Pride Mobility in Exeter as well as a published author and public speaker.
Smith got her first taste for public speaking with her father when she was in high school.
“He and I did a speech together about our relationship at Pride Mobility,” Smith said.
As she follows in her father’s footsteps, she’ll be in good company as she was selected as one of only eight speakers from among 60 applicants for TEDx Erie.
“I’ve always known about TED, and it’s always been on my bucket list,” Smith said.
As she prepares to present, she said her biggest hope is to spread awareness.
“So much of generational addiction and addiction in general is kept silent,” Smith said. “How do we break the cycle of addiction if we don’t talk about it? I’m hoping my voice is going to open doors for others.”
Smith said she plans to dive into the statistical information associated with addiction, but she’ll also discuss the subject through the lens of epigenetics, which hypothesizes that certain environmental stresses and stimuli can alter gene expression and behavior.
“It’s about discovering your personal situation and finding out how you can avoid falling into that cycle,” Smith said.
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