Summit Middle School student kayaks to school instead of taking the bus

Josh Smith kayaks Sept. 8 to Summit Middle School on Dillon Reservoir.
Jason Smith/Courtesy photo

A shortage of bus drivers at Summit School District has some students getting creative about getting to class.

Josh Smith, 12, is a Summit Middle School student and Boy Scout who got a kayak for his birthday a few years back. Given difficulties with busing this year, Josh decided he would take matters into his own hands and kayak to school.

“I’m always looking for new adventures, and I’m always trying to do cool stuff that I’ll remember,” Josh said. “I haven’t really used my kayak this summer, so I was thinking it’s pretty warm weather, and tomorrow I should kayak to school, because then I can tell everyone about it.”

On Sept. 8, Josh did just that. He and his father, Jason Smith, were up at 6 a.m. to load the kayak onto the car, and then the pair drove over to Heaton Bay on Dillon Dam Road. Josh set off for school on Dillon Reservoir at around 7 a.m.

“We put the kayak in, and it was really pretty,” Josh said. “And I turned on my GoPro, and just then the sun started to rise. So I took off, and the water was super reflective like a mirror, and then the sun started to rise, so it’s really pretty.”

Jason’s car said the temperature at the time was 34 degrees — which worried him — but he said he wasn’t about to change his mind.

“I didn’t like it when I dropped him in the water, and it was 34 degrees. If he falls, it’s going to be hypothermia,” Jason said. “I can easily say ‘no,’ but I think the consequences of ‘no’ are greater than the risk of falling in the water or being late to class.”

On his way over to school, Josh stopped to explore a small island. He said the whole trip took about 35-40 minutes and that he got to school a bit late. He walked into class still wearing his life jacket.

Josh Smith captured a picture from his GoPro as he kayaked to Summit Middle School on Dillon Reservoir the morning of Sept. 8.
Josh Smith/Courtesy photo

Josh pulled his kayak onto the beach next to the football field at the middle school and parked it there for the day before kayaking back to Heaton Bay to meet his dad after school. Josh left his cellphone and computer at school the night before so they would be safe should anything happen during the trip.

Jason made sure to keep an eye on Josh during his trip and was reassured when he saw Josh’s kayak on the school’s shore. Jason said letting Josh paddle his kayak to school was a no-brainer and said he was impressed by his son’s initiative.

“He’s got an adventurous spirit, and as a dad, you want to protect your son,” Jason said. “But you don’t want to hinder that adventurous spirit, so I encouraged him. … I want to reward somebody for getting out of their comfort zone, especially at age 12, and being willing to be daring and take some risks.”

Josh hopes to one day earn Eagle Scout recognition, and he is currently working to earn his kayaking merit badge.

“I’m going to earn my kayaking merit badge soon, so I thought for one of my requirements I would kayak to school,” Josh said. “I’m looking to get my Eagle Scout so that way I can go to the Air Force Academy.”

Josh said he would totally kayak to school again, and Jason said he would let him once the weather starts warming up. Jason enjoyed seeing his son accomplish something he set out to do himself and said it was a confidence builder for Josh.

“He was out there on his own. He wasn’t overcome by fear. He wasn’t overcome by negative thoughts,” Jason said. “He was thinking good thoughts (about) accomplishing something, and to me that’s something that I want to reward and encourage.”

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