#EveryStoryCounts – Alex Smith

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“I went to prison at 18. I was moving too fast. I wanted everything yesterday. The inner-city environment breeds a hunger. I wanted to change my life, change the view that I saw out my window. People out there risking life, limb, and liberty in the street every day aren’t doing it for tennis shoes. It goes deeper than that. They want a voice, power, to be somebody.

In prison, I read a study about how your environment impacts your thoughts and feelings. So I helped start a horticulture program. We built a meditation garden, greenhouses, learned how to bring plants all the way up from seed. It was something different, and new. When I came home, I didn’t just want a job; I wanted to change my life. I felt like I had to do something different to not make those years be in vain.

Now I get to help employ people who come from the same background as I do. I can show them that you don’t have to hustle, risk your life, sell drugs to live a decent life. When somebody says they want to work I’m like here, take this shovel. Let me see how bad you want it. You don’t have to be in jail to be doing time. If you tell someone they’re never going to be anything, that amounts to prison — every day you’re dreaming about changing, doing grand things, but you can’t. I don’t want to be incarcerated in any way, shape or form. That’s what drives me, not to make the time that I spent behind a wall be in vain, to make some value out of it. If not I feel like I’ve lost twice.”

Alex Smith leads field operations and outreach for Baltimore Tree Trust. (Photo by New Lens Productions).

Learn more about programs and resources for returning citizens in Baltimore


Every Story Counts

You don’t have to be a climate scientist or city planner to create sustainability + resilience. Everyone has a story to tell about making Baltimore a stronger, fairer and safer place for all of us, from mentoring a young person to transforming a vacant lot.

Be a part of our Every Story Counts Campaign by sharing yours on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag ‪#‎EveryStoryCounts‬, or by sharing your words and pictures through our website.

All you need to do is …

1) Take a picture of yourself or the project.

2) Post to Instagram or Twitter with a few words describing the story, like “we planted this garden to turn a vacant lot from grey to green,” or “when it gets dark we make sure our older residents get help to get home safe.” (Or you can use the online story form: http://tiny.cc/everystoryform).

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3) Add the hashtag #EveryStoryCounts (this lets us find and collect your stories on the internet).

That’s all there is to it. Join the many people who’ve shared their stories already at tiny.cc/everystory so that the whole city can see how we’re making a difference together, and so we can help you find the resources to do even more.