Mostly Cloudy, 73°
Weather sponsored by:

Choosing self-preservation

Fleming Island’s Maggie Smith trades troubled homelife for bright future

By Don Coble don@claytodayonline.com
Posted 5/11/23

FLEMING ISLAND – Maggie Smith was forced to make a decision no child should make. Facing the prospect of being lulled into a life of despair and neglect, the girl courageously decided to break away …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for subscribing.

Single day pass

You also have the option of purchasing 24 hours of access, for $1.00. Click here to purchase a single day pass.

Choosing self-preservation

Fleming Island’s Maggie Smith trades troubled homelife for bright future


Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – Maggie Smith was forced to make a decision no child should make. Facing the prospect of being lulled into a life of despair and neglect, the girl courageously decided to break away from her parents – and their hopeless drug addictions – for a fresh start.

Five years later, Maggie is ready to graduate from Fleming Island High. And she will do it with a fresh outlook and a chance for a positive future.

“If I had stayed, I definitely wouldn’t have gone as far as I could have gone,” she said.

Maggie’s life started to unravel when she was in seventh grade. Her parents’ drug addiction was getting worse. Bills were paid late – or not at all. The refrigerator was often empty. Priorities were the next high, not the welfare of their children.

“My parents, their addiction really took a toll on them,” Maggie said. “They would rather spend money on drugs than buy groceries for their kids. I kept that to myself. I never told anyone what was going on.”

Until it got to be overwhelming.

Maggie told her friend’s mother about the neglect. The mother gave Maggie two days to decide whether to wait to see if things improved or call the Department of Children and Families. Two days later, they made the call.

According to school officials, children living in homes with addictions are far too familiar. What’s unusual is a child picking self-preservation.

Her parents have tried to get clean, but each time, they fell back into their compulsive behavior.

“I knew that DCF, they could provide the help that my parents needed,” Maggie said. “And I thought, you know, if they were scared of losing their child, maybe they would get the help they needed. They just wanted to get high.”

Maggie has lived with her grandparents for nearly five years. The process took more than two years for DCF to resolve, but she was determined to make the break.

Now, she’s going to graduate with a 3.6-grade point average. She hopes her parents will finally get clean, but she’s more focused on her future.

“My parents are still doing their own thing,” she said. “They did this to themselves. They made a choice (whether to do drugs or take care of their children) as soon as they took their first hit.”

Maggie said, “I’m still trying to figure things out,” when she talked about her future. Going to college is an option, but she’s leaning toward a trade school. At least she has options. And a future.

Maggie won $2,000 from the Derek Hatcher Foundation as one of three winners of the organization’s essay contest. She wrote about her family.

The foundation was created in memory of former Ridgeview High quarterback Derek Hatcher. After fighting an opioid addiction for three years, he overdosed and died in his University of Arkansas dorm in 2016 after taking fentanyl.

The other two essay winners were Walker Whiddon of Fleming Island and Lydia Lovelady at Clay High.

For Maggie, the essay was empowering.

In her essay, she wrote: “I have come to the realization that I cannot fix others, and I can help them if they want help, but it is solely up to that person to want to change. They have to be the one to want help.”

In the past five years, Maggie has learned what it’s like to be loved and appreciated.

“Honestly, when I grew up, it seemed normal,” she said. “I thought that’s the way it was supposed to be. Now I know what family is really like. I’m lucky because I have close friends and some siblings. We’re all close. I’m happy. Things are really good.”