Brownstown graduate studies in Hawaii, interns in D.C.


Going from Hawaii to Dallas, Texas, to Washington, D.C., the summer was a whirlwind for Claire Smith.

Since the experiences revolved around political science and journalism, the Seymour native and 2018 Brownstown Central High School graduate considered it an educational and fun way to spend time away from Belmont University.

It’s because of her involvement in her first year at the Nashville, Tennessee, university that she got to travel from place to place.

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Smith, 19, learned about the faculty-led Maymester program during a study abroad fair at the college. While there are Summer Study Abroad programs in a variety of countries around the world, Smith said she was drawn to the Hawaii Maymester program because she would have an opportunity to study the state’s culture, economics and politics.

Plus, she had never been to Hawaii, so a trip to the tropical state intrigued her.

“Just because everyone thinks of Hawaii as tourism and we got to actually see the culture, it was neat because now, you look at Hawaii differently after you know their culture and economic system,” Smith said.

For three hours weekdays during the monthlong program, Smith and other students took three classes taught by Belmont professors. They earned nine credit hours in the process.

“We got to learn what happened with their original Hawaiian people and then learn about their industries beyond tourism,” Smith said.

The weekends were spent on field trips, including Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace, Hanauma Bay, plantations and more. Smith said her favorite site was Pearl Harbor.

“When we went there, it was a lot different because most of the people that were touring with us were Japanese,” she said. “Our tour guide was even Japanese, and we got to see it through a different perspective than what you read about.”

She also liked learning about Hawaiian culture.

“They love the land and their water, and they are connected to all their land, whereas we just think of property and stuff,” she said. “They are probably all connected more since they have so much culture that it affects their economic system and political system. It’s beneficial to learn about other people’s cultures so you understand why they make the decisions they make.”

In June, Smith spent a week at the Young Women’s Leadership Summit in Dallas. She also attended that event in the summer of 2018.

After she heard from political speakers at the summit for college-age women, Smith changed her major from music to political science and journalism.

Now, she works for the organization that put on the summit, Turning Point USA. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets and limited government.

With a presence on more than 1,300 college campuses and high schools across the country, Turning Point USA is the largest and fastest growing youth organization in America, according to

Smith became associated with the organization at Belmont. She also went to the Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida, last winter that was put on by Turning Point USA.

In mid-June, Smith moved to the nation’s capital to start a two-month internship for The Daily Caller. The news publication was founded in 2010 by Tucker Carlson, a 20-year veteran journalist, and Neil Patel, former chief policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Smith wrote articles for The Daily Caller’s website and social media pages.

“From the time you wake up until the time you go to bed, you have to be looking at the news,” she said of coming up with story ideas. “I just took an objective approach because I didn’t want to do opinion yet.”

She liked the internship because it brought together two of her interests: Politics and journalism.

“I love politics, but I don’t want to work directly, like run for office or anything, so just being on the inside of things,” Smith said.

She wrote around 30 articles during her internship. Her most-viewed articles were ones on the presidential debates and another one about a speech by Carlson.

“I got a lot of good (feedback), especially from the higher-up editors there,” Smith said. “You would know if (a story) did well, like if you posted it and if it blew up on Twitter, because you can go on the websites and see how many comments it got.”

While in D.C., she attended Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit as a special guest. The event for high school-age students gave her an opportunity to meet President Donald Trump after he spoke to the students one day.

“The next week for my work, we got to go to the White House press pool and watch him leave on Marine One and shake his hand,” Smith said. “It was really cool.”

Smith has returned to Belmont for her sophomore year and continues to work with Turning Point USA, which will include going to a retreat at the headquarters in Arizona and conferences.

She encourages other students to look into the opportunities their college offers.

“You definitely learn about (other places) more because you’re actually there and you’re not just reading about it. And also, it’s a lot more fun to be somewhere else than just sitting in class,” she said. “Now, I have the coursework under my belt and an internship so that way, I can get an even better internship next year. The more internships you can get, the better job you can get after you graduate.”

Smith said she already is thinking about what she wants to do next summer. So does she expect to be as busy as this year?

“Probably,” she said, smiling.

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Name: Claire Smith

Age: 19

Hometown: Seymour

Education: Brownstown Central High School (2018); currently a sophomore at Belmont University

Organizations: Turning Point USA, Alpha Gamma Delta sorority


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