Freedom High School Student Recognized with Charles T. Smith Community Service Award
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs recently recognized Freedom High School senior Cyris Ross with the Charles T. Smith Community Service Award at the Freedom High School Senior Academic Awards Breakfast.
The award recognizes an outstanding high school junior or senior student from Orange County Public Schools who has shown dedication toward making a positive impact in their community through service and volunteerism. The award honors the life and memory of the late Charles “Chase” Smith, a former Orange County Government employee who devoted his life to public service and improving his community.
Ross demonstrates a passion for community service and volunteerism, especially when it comes to inspiring the next generation. Ross volunteers at John Young Elementary School in Orange County, assisting in the school’s main office and in the classroom tutoring students in reading and math.
“When people talk about the future, most of them fail to realize that there is more to the future than just themselves,” Ross wrote in his essay application, “There is another generation following in their footsteps, and the actions they make affect the next generation.”
Ross has logged more than 100 hours of community service and has been attending Valencia College as a dual enrollment student. He plans to attend the University of Central Florida. Like Smith, Ross cares deeply about Orange County and is steadfast in serving those in need.
Charles T. Smith was a fourth generation Floridian, born and raised in Wauchula, Fla. He was a Wauchula City Commissioner in Hardee County for 12 years. Elected in 1992 when he was only 20 years old, he defeated the odds by becoming the youngest elected official in Hardee County history. Throughout his three terms, Smith worked to better his hometown by serving as the voice for the next generation of citizens while still understanding the concerns of the entire city population.
In February 2011, Mayor Jacobs extended an invitation to Smith to join her administration as an Aide for Constituent Relations and Outreach. He rapidly learned the intricacies of a large government and in August 2011, Mayor Jacobs appointed Smith as Orange County’s first ombudsman. Smith was selected for this role because of his extensive understanding of County government divisions and his passion to serve the community.
“To those looking to make their mark in the world, to those seeking to serve their community and to those striving for a life of leadership, I urge you to follow Chase’s example,” Mayor Jacobs said during the ceremony. “Don’t wait to start setting and achieving your goals in life, start now. Go where your heart leads you and remember that all achievements begin in service and with hard work.”
On August 28, 2013, Chase lost his battle to cancer at 41 years old. To honor his legacy, the Charles T. Smith Community Service Award was created in his memory.
To view photos from the event, visit Mayor Jacobs’ Flickr album.