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Mr. Smith went to Washington, but has since returned to the Kenton area where he substitute teaches at the middle school level.
That would be Jackson Smith, a 2004 graduate of Kenton High School who had the opportunity to work with congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. following college.
Smith originally had planned on a career in the musical education field, but when that didn’t pan out for him, politics was next on his list.
It was a family friend who peaked his interest in the field at a younger age. The friend, according to Smith, was a well-regarded attorney and very involved in Virginia politics, even working on national campaigns.
“When I’d go visit her, (politics) was all we’d talk about,” Smith said. “I was about 13 or 14, and she just really sucked me into it.”
Smith got his foot in the door the year before his final semester at Miami (Ohio) University when he got the opportunity to go to Washington as part of a school program.
While in D.C., Smith had the chance to meet with some of Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan’s staff, including Wes Goodman whom he’d later contact about an internship.
“They said to apply and I was fortunate enough to get in. I started off as an intern for Congressman Jordan who represents this area for the time being until redistricting kicks in,” Smith said. “I worked with him in his office until mid-May of 2008, so I was in Washington during the election of 2008, which was a busy and chaotic time.”
During that time, Smith recalled one instance in which he was conducting a tour for a group of eighth graders from Virginia. With front row seats in the gallery of the Senate, Smith and his group had the opportunity to hear then President-elect Barack Obama speak.
“We were able to hear Obama’s resignation letter read, resigning his Senate seat from Illinois so he could prepare for the presidency,” Smith explained. “It was amazing what I had gotten to do.
“I have a friend with the Fox News Channel who always used the term ‘Washington Moments,’ the interaction with living history of our nation’s leaders,” Smith said.
Once his internship had ended with Congressman Jordan, Smith stayed in Washington and worked his way to the Senate, starting off with an internship with then-Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon.
He remained with Senator Smith until the people of Oregon voted him out of office
The Senate, the intern Smith said, is where he primarily got involved in D.C., doing various jobs for Senator Smith, including public relations work. Essentially, he said, he was a representative of the senator.
“When people come to the office, be it school groups or just members of the general public from the respective state, they come to the front office and should the member or representative not be available or not even be in D.C. at that time and unable to meet with constituents or members of their state or district, then I would be a representative for Senator Smith,” he said.
But it was giving tours that were a large part of what he did in the senator’s office, according to Smith. With not many visitors from Oregon, he was asked to give tours from many different states in the Senate.
“A big thing was giving tours of the Capitol, and that’s how I started – really going back to Congressman Jordan’s time – working with school groups not only from Ohio, but across the country: Maine, Virginia, Montana, Texas, New Jersey, etc.,” Smith said.
The experience he gained from giving the tours to the children would later prove useful when he left Washington.
After Senator Smith was voted out of office by the people of Oregon, the KHS grad was asked by the senator what he would do. He responded by saying he’d like to go back to Ohio and substitute teach.
While disappointed in having to leave the nation’s capital, Smith said without leaving, he wouldn’t have the opportunity to be where he is today, substitute teaching at Kenton Middle School.
“I owe (the people of Oregon) my gratitude for not only for allowing me the experience of a lifetime so far, but also, had the election gone another way, I would not be here and would not have gotten to work with the kids,” he said.
Being a substitute teacher is something Smith never would have dreamed of doing even as recently as his college years.
“It’s something that if you would have told me when I graduated from high school or Miami that I would be behind a desk in school, I would’ve said you’re crazy,” Smith said. “Even when I left Washington, everyone said, ‘Jackson, are you sure about that?’ They just could not picture me as a teacher.”
He assured his doubters that his time in Washington and working with kids on the tour groups had changed his perspective.
Smith started off at the kindergarten level, but said he quickly learned it wasn’t for him. Middle school, he found, is his niche.
“Middle school is my thing, it’s my place – I’ve found it. It’s been beyond what I could imagine and has been an incredible experience,” he said. “I love to do this, and to me, it is vacation.”
Smith said one day, he would like to be a teacher, but is currently focused on attaining his law degree at Mississippi College in Jackson, Miss.
Smith explained that it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he will return to politics and maybe even D.C. where he still maintains contacts.
But someday, he said, he wouldn’t mind seeing himself with a teacher’s desk with his name on it.
“I couldn’t leave my kids; they were my life after Washington – a good part,” Smith said. “Do I miss Washington? Yes, but not as much as I thought I would.”
By TY THAXTON
Times staff writer