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Mastering Community

Alan Smiley’s rise from acolyte of social responsibility to teacher and leader

Alan Smiley’s story begins when he entered high school as a hyperactive handful. He was rambunctious, academically disinterested, and a boundary pusher. Alan didn’t really care about school. He wasn’t focused. He lacked direction. He was a (somewhat) typical teenage boy. One day, he met Charlie Belton. Belton was the lacrosse coach at Alan’s high school, but for Alan, he came to represent infinitely more.

Charlie took young Alan under his wing, spending hours upon hours imparting in him that the habits of the mind that translated to success on the athletic field (focus, attention to little details, self-control, a willingness to work hard on foundation-building but less exciting skills, support for a team, etc.) were exactly the same habits that lead to success in academics. They must be practiced in all areas of your life if they were to become dependable characteristics. After one particularly disappointing loss as a freshman goalie where Alan’s loss of self-control led to a penalty that cost his team a critical goal, Charlie used the moment to teach.

He explained how Alan’s personal actions affected his performance and that of the team, illustrated how the same habits were apparent in his academic life, gave Alan specific strategies for improving in these areas, and continued to monitor his progress and offer encouragement when strides were achieved. Charlie didn’t have to do any of it, yet he invested in Alan with incredible vigor, and Alan Smiley learned to believe in himself. He’s following Charlie’s example every day, hoping to give young people the kind of attention, consideration and understanding that helped form him into the man he is today.

Making strong connections

There was no shortage of positive influence for Alan Smiley. His parents taught him appreciation and generosity at a young age. His father’s personal motto, “If it’s worth doing, it is worth doing the right way” is a philosophy Alan tries to uphold in all aspects of his life. They had the dedication and caring to reinforce it each and every day. The gifts they gave him, combined with what he learned from Charlie Belton, created an Alan Smiley who sees serving the community as a responsibility. As a citizen, Alan takes his obligation to care for his fellow man and woman extremely seriously. He holds a personal philosophy that health, happiness and success all greatly depend on the connection we have to our neighbors. That responsibility to make strong connections is why Alan chose to be a teacher. In working with the next generations of citizens, he impacts society while helping children and youth understand their important role in the world.

Alan’s community service knew few limits, though. In addition to teaching, he has worked with Habitat for Humanity (14 years), Capitol Hill Community Services (7 years), and The Challenge Foundation (6 years involved + 2 years on the advisory board). He is the former Head of School at St. Anne’s Episcopal, and focuses his community caring energies on making The Challenge Foundation a success in Denver. Alan wants to be some other kid’s Charlie Belton. Correction: Alan wants to be an infinite number of kids’ Charlie Belton. Through Challenge, he encourages low-income, high-achieving students to see, embrace and harness their incredible potential. He knows from experience that every child deserves the care, support and opportunity to realize their full potential.

Most of all, Alan Smiley knows how lucky he was. His loving parents, his great and numerous opportunities for success, and countless educators like Charlie Belton, all forged a restless boy into the man he is today. Everyone deserves to have a “family” that large, that caring, and that invested. That’s Alan’s work. It does take a village to raise a child, and if the child isn’t born into the village, Alan brings the village to the child.