There’s a saying that hangs on the wall of Dwight Smith’s home office. Our children’s lives are in our hands. Our future is in their hands. Not far from that is a map of the world with pins where Dwight’s program, My Special Word, is changing children’s lives. The pins stretch from North America and Europe to Africa and Asia.
Dwight explains that the premise behind My Special Word is simple. Teach children about the importance of positive, encouraging, inspiring words—and have them choose a word that describes them. My Special Word puts the power of words in the hands of the children themselves—how do they want to be seen?
Used in schools, camps, and afterschool programs, My Special Word addresses the negativity in today’s world and empowers children to take action, defining themselves first.
“I want to have young people stand up with pride and excitement and say ‘this is who I am.’ And then I want to catch them living out their word,” Dwight said.
In 2016, Dwight and his wife Renée established the My Special Word Fund at The Columbus Foundation to help cover the cost of the program for those who participate. Many friends have donated to the fund, allowing it to expand to reach children around the world.
"Don’t let others define you; define yourself.”
— DWIGHT SMITH
In 2017, a picture book, My Special Word, and the first in a series of chapter books, What’s My Word, were released, and 20 partners shared the program, including The 2nd and 7 Foundation, KIPP Columbus, United Schools Network, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus.
“The idea is that we can create a conversation in a non-intimidating fashion,” Dwight said. “I believe in general that if we change the words we use, we can change the conversations. If we change the conversations, we can change behaviors. And if we change behaviors, we can change the world.”
As the program continues to expand, Dwight hopes the roots of the program grow deep.
“I want to reach as many children as I can in as meaningful a way as possible. It’s not just broad, but it’s deep. I want kids to get so excited that they want to tell their stories to others.”
What’s Dwight’s Special Word?
SOLD: “S stands for silence (be careful with the words you use); O stands for obedience and I desire to be obedient to Christ; L stands for leverage—to whom much is given, much is required; and D stands for discipline.”