At first glance, Tre Smith may appear to be just like any other high school student, but get to know him and you will find he is anything but ordinary. Smith is a senior at Lee High, and he has accomplished much in his four years of high school. He is a member of the Video Broadcast Journalism Magnet, a Lee High School Ambassador, a member of the Beta Club and National Honor Society, and has also the been Student Government Vice President of his class for the last two years.
Smith grew up in a single parent home with his mother who pushed him to excel from a young age. Smith said, "My mom had me while she was in high school. She and my dad went their separate ways and he helped raise me, but my mom did most of the hard work, and she always taught me about the importance of education and not being a statistic." As a child, Smith heard how “the statistics say that I won’t graduate high school, I won’t go to college, or by the time I’m eighteen I’ll be in jail.” Instead of becoming one, Smith always used these statistics as motivation to do his very best in school. Growing up, he said, "I saw how hard my mom worked every day, and I wanted to become something in life and to better myself so that one day she won’t have to work as hard, or one day she’ll be proud of me and see that I’m working just as hard as she is. And that’s what really motivates me in my life, trying to be a better person for my mom and for my brother and for my grandma and for my family, and to be somebody that other people could look at and aspire to be."
In the summer of 2013, Smith participated in the STEM Summer Institute Program, a two week intensive learning opportunity for Lee and Butler juniors and seniors. Students who are accepted into the program receive ACT Prep classes, guidance on college and scholarship applications, and go on visits to colleges and STEM companies in Huntsville. Smith said he got a lot out of the program. "I took some ACT prep classes, and it helped me, but the one thing I never really improved a whole lot on was the math section. The STEM Summer Institute program helped me jump four points in math! I could never crack a twenty. The first time I made a seventeen, and I made a twenty-one on the math section right after the program and that really helped me a lot." This growth is typical of students who participate in the STEM Summer Institute. The sixteen students participating in the program last year saw some amazing results; they raised their ACT composite scores by an average of 2.25 points, including 2.5 point increase on the Math section and a 3.65 point increase on the Science section. Smith also said that the STEM program helped him out a lot navigating his way through college and scholarship applications along with the numerous essays required for both. All of last year's STEM Summer Institute participants were accepted into college, and almost 85% earned some sort of scholarship totaling $950,000; students earned an average of $68,000.
Smith's hard work in school and during the STEM Summer Institute paid off. Leveraging his background and the scholarship information and essay practice he received at the STEM Summer Institute, he applied for several scholarships. He is one of ten students from the state of Alabama who received a Gates-Millennium Scholarship this year, and the only one from the Huntsville City School District. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates-Millennium Scholarship Program provides winners with a good-through-graduation scholarship to use at any college or university from undergraduate all the way though doctoral education. Becoming a Gates-Millennial Scholar is no easy task; only 1,000 students are accepted, and over 52,000 students applied for the scholarship this year. Smith is the fifth student in the history of Lee High School to win this highly prestigious scholarship and is preceded by Mahalia Floyd (2011), Jeremy Williams (2008), Phillip Jordan (2005), and Tiffany Pharris (1999).
Smith has received acceptance letters and scholarship offers from many different schools, but has chosen to attend Auburn University in the fall where he will pursue a degree in journalism with an emphasis on sports. His mother certainly has a lot to be proud of.