WATCH NOW: Smith Shows Leadership with CHS Recycling Program | Local

Columbus High School high school student Caleb Smith explains how he started a high school recycling program.

Editor’s Note: “Leaders of Tomorrow” is a weekly series that features local youth doing good things in the community and leading by example. Be sure to watch the video with this story on our website, You can also view previously published articles in this series at

When Columbus High School teacher Kari Tinink reflected on what made one of her students, Caleb Smith, a leader, she had a long list of how he had demonstrated his leadership skills.

She said the CHS senior is responsible, reliable, honest, hardworking, respectful, charismatic, kind and caring to others. Tinink added that Smith “is a leader by example.”

Tinink saw these attributes through Smith’s involvement in creating a retraining program – through Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and the student council – in high school. Tinink said Smith has done a tremendous job running the program which started earlier this year.

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“Caleb was adamant this was going to happen and he just took matters into his own hands,” said Tinink, who is the FBLA adviser. “I’m joking that we started it but I had nothing to do with it because he took the reins completely.”

Smith said there are six plastics recycling stations set up at Columbus High where students can throw their items. Recycling is dropped off every two weeks at the Keep Columbus Beautiful (KCB) trailer located in Hy-Vee.

Tinink explained that for the program to work, someone would have to do it after Smith left. But she noted that Smith had the high school students interested in keeping it up, so she believes it will be successful after graduation in the spring.

“He’s kind of leaving a legacy behind,” Tinink said. “He’s been that leader in taking care of your school and doing things to improve your school. He did great things with it.

Smith, 18, said he believed it could be a sustainable program at the CHS, adding that he had seen other schools succeed in theirs. He also said he started the program knowing that recycling plays an important role in stopping climate change.

“I know that with the environment in our world, recycling is going to play a big role in tackling climate change and things to that extent,” Smith said. “So I think every little move you can make or action – no matter how small – makes a big difference. “

KCB CEO Vanessa Oceguera said she found it incredible that such a program had been implemented at CHS.

“I just think it’s awesome,” Oceguera said. “I think it’s great that a younger student is very environmentally friendly and aware of the impact recycling can have. “

Smith is also involved in a plethora of other activities outside of the FBLA and the student council. He is a member of the Key Club, the National Honor Society, the Youth Leadership Coalition of Nebraska, the CHS Student Ambassador, CHS 101 and Strive Just to name a few.

Smith said he felt it was more important to get involved as it helps him prepare for the next chapter in his life and allows him to meet new people.

“It also gives me a way to give back to the community and help those who might need help,” he said.

With graduation on the horizon, Smith said he’s still figuring out which college he’d like to attend next year. He added that he had narrowed it down to four colleges, including three in Colorado and one at Creighton University.

“I’m just weighing the financial options,” Smith said. “It all plays a role. I haven’t made a decision yet.

No matter where he goes, Smith has said he hopes to study political science with the goal of going to law school. He added that his ultimate plan was to get into policy making or government afterwards.

“I’ve always loved the ways you can help people on a large scale,” Smith said. “I personally believe that one of the best ways to do this is through policy making and legislation. “

Andrew Kiser is a reporter for the Columbus Telegram. Contact him by email at