Northern Kentucky Young Marine credits youth program for giving her confidence

Abby Smith Northern Kentucky’s branch of the Young Marines
Posted at 4:12 PM, Aug 21, 2023

COVINGTON, Ky. — At age 11, Abby Smith's greatest fear was standing in front of her sixth-grade class. Now, she stands in front of crowds of people without skipping a beat — a feat she credits to US Marine Corps values.

"So much has changed in my demeanor and just how I carry myself," Smith said. "I carry myself so much more competently and in charge of myself and what I want to do."

Smith is among 13 youths who make up Northern Kentucky’s branch of the Young Marines.

"People like Abby Smith prove that things happen, you know, opportunities are given. And as long as you take the initiative to jump in, you can achieve whatever you want to achieve here," said Lynne Arnold, Commander of Northern Kentucky Young Marines.

Arnold said the Young Marines organization is a leadership program meant to give kids ages 8 through high school graduation an extra edge. Some parents, she said, see a difference from day one.

"Parents will point out the fact that the first day, the morning they dropped them off, they took a photo of him as they came and then a photo when they came home and they were standing up straighter standing at attention, you know, looking people in the eye," Arnold said. "They said if you can do this in one day, I can't imagine what's going to happen over the years."

Arnold and Smith both said the Young Marines program isn’t a place for troubled youth.

"The Young Marines isn’t a fix-it program. It's not something you go into when your kids are bad or anything ... the program is there to help you. The program is there to make you better," Smith said.

Smith is now 15 years old and said through the years she’s been able to not only prove to herself what she can achieve with confidence, but help her fellow Young Marines do the same thing.

"What I always tried to bring to my Young Marines is that sense that they can do what they want within this program," Smith said. "I want to give them all of the opportunities they need to succeed."

Her confidence has given her the title of Old Dominion Young Marine of the Year and most recently finished second in the National Advanced Leadership School held in San Pedro, California. During the weeklong event, she competed against 48 Young Marines from across the country.

"When I first got called up for the award, I didn't really know what to expect. I wasn't expecting to get that far," she said. "It was kind of blissful, overwhelming, I didn't really know what to think. But I was really grateful to be put into that position."

Smith said she has plans to take a run at National Young Marine of the Year before graduating high school and aging out of the organization. In the meantime, she’s already focused on her post-high school plans and her intended service to the country.

"My goal as of this moment is to graduate and go into the Naval Academy, and then join the Navy," Smith said. "I want to major in mechanical engineering and go in as a Surface Warfare Officer."

You can find out more about the Young Marines by visiting their website.

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