STUART, Fla. — A Martin County man isn’t letting his troubled past define his future.
Despite being put behind bars dozens of times, the agency once arresting him is now supporting his efforts to put other children and teens on a better path.
Kianza Smith and Martin County Lieutenant Tommy Smith’s relationship goes back decades.
“I think you were in 8th grade, and I was in 6th grade,” Kianza said. They went to the same middle school.
In high school, Kianza said he was arrested for the first time. “I had a great youth, had a great upbringing, my mom was phenomenal, my dad was in the picture, and he was great. I made choices myself that negatively impacted my life,” Kianza said.
“I’ve been arrested I think something like 25 times,” Kianza said.
In fact, Tommy said the first time he served a search warrant as a narcotics detective was at Kianza’s home.
“He wasn’t there, and the house was clean. I'm not sure he got tipped off we were coming,” Tommy laughed.
Kianza said he and law enforcement officers, including Tommy, long played a game of ‘cat and mouse.’
“We established that relationship of I’m going to get you, I know what you’re doing,” Kianza said. “I didn’t have respect for you know, law enforcement.”
But Kianza said he eventually started going to church and focused on turning his life around.
“It wasn't law enforcement that got me in the position I’m in, it’s me that got me in that position,” Kianza said. He turned to youth sports to make sure his own kids would not get involved in crime. Kianza and Tommy both coached separate youth teams.
“Our relationship kind of grew through youth sports believe it or not,” Kianza said. “So that relationship cultivated over years, just me coaching, him understanding who I used to be and how I was changing.”
Kianza told Tommy he had a goal of starting his own nonprofit, the Treasure Coast Sports Association, with a goal of teaching youth sports along with life skills.
“When he was telling me his story, what he’s doing, God inspired me, whatever I could do to help him,” Tommy said.
Tommy told his leadership at the Martin County Sheriff’s Office about what Kianza wanted to do, wanting to see if the sheriff’s office could somehow help him.
They put their heads together and in a first gesture of support, this week, the sheriff’s office is donating dozens of new shoes to Kianza’s athletes.
“I don’t only have a track record of the bad, but I have a track record of the good,” Kianza said.
He’s already recruited 90 athletes to his nonprofit organization and hopes to expand the sports from basketball to eventually organizing football, swimming, soccer, and other sports.
“I’m proud of him,” Tommy said.
You can learn more about The Treasure Coast Sports Association and ways to get involved, here.