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DeMatha graduate Daniel Smith seeks to ‘help my community now, not later’

Daniel Smith, a member of the class of 2024 at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, will attend Xavier University in Cincinnati. (Photo courtesy of DeMatha Catholic High School)

Daniel Smith – who graduates this year from DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland – will attend Xavier University in Cincinnati, after being awarded a Community Engaged Fellowship by that university. This scholarship is awarded to students who want to continue their commitment to service while attending the university.

“We will do 10 hours of community service a week,” he explained. “I will be working with kids at a local school. I am really excited about this opportunity. I think it’s pretty cool.”

Xavier University only grants eight fellowships each year. In addition to the community service in the Cincinnati metro area, fellows must remain as full-time students with at least a 3.0 grade point average.

Smith is entering Xavier as part of its “PPP” program. The Philosophy, Politics, and the Public honors program is a four-year course of study designed to help students “understand the diversity and complexity of the public sphere through demanding academic study.”

As a student at DeMatha – an all-boys Catholic high school sponsored by the Order of the Most Holy Trinity (Trinitarians) – Smith has worked at the food bank at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Takoma Park, Maryland. He noted that food pantry – named in honor of Mother Mary Lange – “has a layout like a grocery story. That way people can pick their own items, and it gives them a lot more dignity.”

Of his four years of community service, Smith said he was most moved by his time as a junior when he served at the Oscar Romero Center in Camden, New Jersey. That center offers an immersion experience where students work with and live among the less fortunate people they serve, and learn about the issues facing the urban poor.

“To see how hard it is for those people kind of impacted me a lot,” he said.

Smith’s interest in working with students at a Cincinnati school seems to be an inherited trait. Both of his parents are longtime educators in The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. Smith’s mother, Elizabeth, taught at the now-closed St. Mark’s School in Hyattsville and is currently a Pre-K teacher at St. Bernadette’s School in Silver Spring. His dad, Patrick, is an English teacher at DeMatha.

Having a parent teach at his high school was not a problem, Smith said. “Dad was pretty good about. I never had him for class, so there was no pressure,” he said. “He let me do my other thing. He let me learn and grow. It was nice having him here.”

Smith also has a brother who is a teacher.

His family attends St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Hyattsville. Smith’s four older brothers all graduated from DeMatha, and his sister graduated from the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington.

Smith’s interest in community service also seems to run in the family. A brother and a sister are social workers who worked for Catholic Charities. He also has a brother who worked in Ireland to help children affected by “The Troubles.” That is the name given to the three-decade-long conflict between Catholics and Protestants and unionist and republican factions in Northern Ireland.

“I like the idea of doing community service, because I want to know how I can help my community now, not later. Wanting to make an impact is something DeMatha gave me,” he said.

Outside of his classwork and his community service, Smith is a member of the National Honor Society and played varsity soccer for three years – serving as captain of the team his senior year – and was manager of the varsity tennis team.

Looking back on his education at DeMatha, Smith said the school, “let me be a sponge, where I could absorb all I could and learn all I could from the people around me.’

“Here (at DeMatha) you can take your time to be excellent,” he said. “Each kid here can be special in his own way, and it is great to be around that kind of environment.”