By Michael James LeClair
Jacki Smith was only in fourth grade when she first picked up the sport of archery.
“I tried every sport under the sun before trying archery,” said Smith, a Stow native. “I tried soccer, basketball, swimming. I even tried horseback riding and none of them ever stuck with me. I started archery the summer between fourth and fifth grade and I really enjoyed it.”
It was through the Stow Recreation Department that Smith and her friend first gave archery a shot. “My friend was really into the “Hunger Games” at the time and we decided to try a summer program through the Rec department. It was with On The Mark Archery,” said Smith. “We’d go once a week for about a month and the funny thing is my friend ended up hating it but I really liked it.”
It was that love for the sport that has stayed with her as she has improved her skills and is now one of the top competitors not only in the area but also the state.
“I stayed with On The Mark for two more years before wanting to find something a little more challenging,” Smith explained. “I felt it was time to move on and get more serious about the sport. I began looking for a local archery program and that’s when I found Riverside Archery in Hudson.”
At the conclusion of her freshman year, Smith was invited to join the Riverside Archery Road Team where she has continued to compete once a month and practices as often as four days a week. Smith’s hard work has paid off as she was recently named a scholarship recipient of the Bay State Games 2019 Future Leaders Scholarship program.
Smith, who is 17 now and will be beginning her senior year at Nashoba Regional when school resumes in the fall, couldn’t be more excited. “Since I competed in the Bay State Games last year, I was already in the system and I received an email saying they were accepting applicants for scholarships so I applied,” she said. She is one of only six statewide scholarship recipients for this prestigious honor.
The winners were selected from a large applicant pool after a process that included committee reviews of all applications and live interviews with selected applicants. “It was a lot of work. It was actually a lot more work than I thought it was going to be,” said Smith with a laugh. “I was nervous during the interview portion but I think it went really well.”
These future leaders were selected based on their achievements and involvement in academics, community service, athletics, and leadership roles. The Bay State Games Future Leaders Scholarship program was established in 1989 and has since distributed nearly $400,000 in financial aid. Each of the rising high school seniors will receive a $2,000 scholarship.
Smith is one of only two Central Mass. athletes receiving a scholarship from the program. The other is Nishka Pant of Westborough High School for her accomplishments in swimming.
“It’s a really big honor,” said Smith. “I’m proud of the hard work I’ve put in and proud to receive it.”
Smith’s talents also include a passion for art that led to her winning a Silver Key Award in painting in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in 2018. “I’ve been involved in art for a big part of my life. I’ve been attending Donovan Art Studio [in Stow] for 10 years. Mrs. Donovan is great,” said Smith. “I do a little bit of both painting and drawing. I don’t write, I’m kind of awful at that but I really enjoy painting and drawing.”
Smith wants to help teach and motivate younger students as well, and on her own became a volunteer teacher at a local elementary school. Smith has participated in the Bay State Games for the past two years and will also compete in the State Games of America this August.