Kelsey Smith Foundation founders present safety seminar on campus

In a classroom at the Business Administration Building, self-defense advocate Greg Smith answers student questions during a safety awareness seminar put on by the Kelsey Smith Foundation and the College Republicans at Kansas State. (Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

“Keep your eyes, ears and hands open.” That was some of the advice Greg Smith gave to students in the College Republicans organization at Kansas State during a safety awareness seminar held Monday in the Business Administration Building.

Greg and his wife Missey Smith are the founders of the Kelsey Smith Foundation, an organization created by the Smiths to “honor and perpetuate the life of Kelsey Smith,” their daughter, after she was kidnapped and murdered in 2007 just nine days after graduating from Shawnee Mission West High School.

In order to achieve their goal, the Smiths use a variety of seminars to help empower communities and individuals to protect children and young adults.

After the death of Kelsey, Missey and Greg Smith said they noticed the majority of violent crimes were geared toward children and young adults.

“We wanted to prevent this from happening to others,” Missey Smith said.

With that goal in mind, they created safety awareness seminars. Greg Smith was a police officer at the time of his daughter’s death, so he used the training methods he learned on the force and applied them to a civilian setting.

“It really came out of street survival — how do officers stay safe on the streets?” Greg Smith said. “I went out there and looked for a civilian equivalent. It didn’t exist, so I made one.”

During the presentation, Greg Smith displayed a variety of graphs and charts showing that the majority of violent crime victims are between the ages of 17 and 24. Despite that, the Smiths could not find any training programs that targeted this specific age group.

After a brief section on the types and statistics of crime, Greg Smith laid out two main concepts: responsibility for your own choices and maintaining safety awareness both online and in the physical world.

For Greg Smith, trusting your gut, natural intuition and choosing not to ignore those natural signals are some of the most important parts of staying safe, he said.

That includes staying aware of your surroundings, keeping exits in the back of your mind and keeping an eye out for possibly suspicious individuals.

Most importantly, Greg Smith emphasized the “Big Three:” making eye contact with possible attackers, reporting suspicious circumstances and informing either family or friends when you change locations.

As for the utilization of violence in self-defense, Greg Smith quoted self-defense advocate Tim Larkin: “Violence is rarely the answer, but when it is, it’s the only answer.”

In the realm of self-defense and personal safety, Greg Smith said people have to truly be prepared to use violence. He introduced the audience to the concept of a winner’s mentality, utilizing whatever means are necessary to come out of a conflict.

“In and of Itself, [violence] is not a bad thing, it’s a tool,” Greg Smith said.

To develop that winner’s mentality, Greg Smith recommended to rehearse and visualize scenarios. By doing that, he said, your body will respond almost automatically even in situations where you are caught off guard.

For situations where you might be experiencing a sense of sensory overload and feel that you may be unsafe or unaware of your surroundings, Greg Smith recommended calling 911 or the Wildcat Walk service.

“Don’t be afraid of that,” Smith said. He added that when he was a police officer, there would never be any judgment for asking for help.