Remembrance and Renewal – Tyree Smith

Eastern High School Senior’s Eagle Scout Project Honors Local Shooting Victim Tyree Smith

Writer / Grace Schaefer
Photography Provided

The memorial courtyard in front of Jefferson County’s Eastern High School will look significantly different to returning students this fall. Where before Eastern’s students found weeds, dead leaves, uneven ground and weathered concrete, there are now

Tyree Smith

pavers, pea gravel, pruned plants and polished memorials. This is no small change, and it all started with Miles Bonifer, who wanted to bring a blessing out of tragedy.

Bonifer is a senior at Eastern High School with a passion for the outdoors. When not hiking or exploring, he might be found studying graphic design, practicing photography, drama or art, or listening to music. He’s participated in the Boy Scouts of America since 2018, an experience that has shaped much of who he has grown to be. That growth shows the most through his servant’s heart, a staple of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

As years of training culminate, Life Scouts – leaders and teachers within their troop – can attempt to rise to Eagle, the highest attainable rank. A major part of this process is the Eagle Scout Service Project, an opportunity to display the leadership and service skills a Scout has acquired. In his time Bonifer has helped his forerunners with their Eagle Scout Service Projects, and it wasn’t until 2021 that he began to plan a project of his own.

“Last fall I was close to finishing up Life Scout, so I was brainstorming ideas because I knew I’d have the Eagle Project,” he says. “I wanted to do something memorable. I originally thought about doing something at The Parklands of Floyds Fork.” A Scout is called to be loyal and helpful, and Bonifer changed his plans when the Louisville community, and specifically Eastern High School, suffered a heavy blow in September of 2021. It was then that Tyree Smith, 16 years old, was killed in a drive-by shooting while waiting for a school bus.

“He was a really good kid – great personality,” Bonifer says of Smith. Though not close, the two young men had gone to the same middle school and had just started their junior year at Eastern. “A lot of people loved him. Teachers loved him, students at Eastern loved him. His death affected everybody in some way.”

Wanting a way to honor Smith, Bonifer’s thoughts turned to his school’s memorial courtyard. He thought it would be the perfect place to direct his efforts. “This would be really meaningful,” Bonifer says. “I could refurbish that area and add something for Tyree to dedicate that to him and expand on the memorial.”

With a newfound purpose for his Eagle Scout Service Project, Bonifer received approval from his school, the Smith family and the Scouts, then began the hard work of raising funds, collecting supplies and recruiting volunteers. Most importantly, Bonifer planned to add a new memorial in Smith’s honor, asking for discounts and donations from hardware stores and plant nurseries to keep costs low along the way. “I tried to save as much money as I can so I can spend more money on the memorial, to get something really nice,” he says.

Bonifer, along with a crew of fellow Scouts and community volunteers, began work in mid-July. They placed pavers to the side of

Tyree Smith

the courtyard, filled in garden beds with pea gravel, put in edging, planted new perennials, weeded, raked, cleaned the existing memorials, added a new bench and reorganized the courtyard’s existing seating. Finally, they installed the new memorial.

“The work was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be,” Bonifer says, adding that seeing the realization of his idea was well worth the work. Refurbished and blooming, the courtyard has come to reflect Tyree Smith far beyond the memorial that shares his name. The space has become a place of growth, fellowship, healing and hope – ideals Smith certainly embodied in his time at Eastern. It also reflects the Boy Scouts’ dedication to those same ideals.

“Clubs can meet there and people can just hang out with their friends, or just come to pay their respects,” Bonifer says. “I really hope that this project will have a positive effect on the school and the community. As for the meaning behind the project, since Tyree was killed with such a senseless act of violence – it could’ve been anybody, there was nothing beforehand that could’ve warned him, and he wasn’t even the target in the drive-by shooting – I hope people look at that and realize that we need to do something about violence, because it’s getting out of hand if teenage boys who are just innocently waiting are getting killed for no reason. Life is a precious thing and any moment could be your last.”

Though his Eagle Scout Service Project has come to a close, Bonifer’s service-focused lifestyle is far from over. He hopes to pursue a career in criminal justice after high school and continue his connection with the Boy Scouts. “I could totally see myself helping other Scouts in the future, to help people experience the things I have,” he says. “Through Scouts I’ve seen things and done things that will change me forever, for the best.”

“[Being a Scout has] taught me to work things out, to know what battles to fight when, and how to work with others, as well as how to give back to the community, how to be more selfless – just to be a better person,” he adds. “Just a lot of brotherhood in Boy Scouts. It’s one of the best things about it.” Those relationships extend beyond fellow Scouts. True brotherhood recognizes each individual’s value, and by honoring Smith, the Scouts’ dedication to brotherhood certainly shines through.

Tyree Smith

In the wake of tragedy, blessings can come. In the worn path of pain, hope for a more peaceful future can emerge. Now, each time Kentucky’s high schoolers meet in that paved and planted courtyard, there’s a brand-new opportunity to remember, honor and cherish Tyree Smith.

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