Fifty-three weeks after his death, Brandon Smith's legacy came to life on September 3 at Victor Valley College.

His parents, City Councilman Thurston "Smitty" Smith and his wife Margaret, presented the first $500 of the new Brandon E. Smith Memorial Scholarship was given to 2007 Sultana High School graduate Brandi Howlett. Her application was unanimously chosen from the pool of applicants by Brandon's parents and his girlfriend, Jennyfer "JK" Carlson.

"He was only 19 and had his whole life ahead of him," Thurston Smith told the assembled crowd at the Victor Valley 2008-2009 Scholarship presentation ceremony. Brandon, who had been involved in off-road racing since he was 8 years old, died on August 24, 2007, during a race from Las Vegas to Reno. "Almost immediately, my wife and I said we should establish a scholarship in his name."

Brandon's parents asked that, instead of flowers, mourners donate to the newly formed scholarship fund. In short order, the fund grew to $20,000 and thanks to a matching grant from the Bernard and Barbara Osher Foundation, will grow to $30,000 next year.

"What would we have done with that kind of money in flowers?" Margaret Smith asked later. "It ended up being the right thing to do."

"At first, it was hard and I wasn't looking forward to going," Thurston Smith said.

The wounds dealt by Brandon's death are no less fresh than when they were first inflicted a year ago, and Margaret said she came close to breaking down during the ceremony, and had to fight to hold it together.

But things changed for them as dozens of scholarship recipients crossed the VVC performing arts center stage, many of them stopping to thank the scholarship donors.

"The world goes on and his legacy goes on," Smith said. "The boy that he was, Brandon would have been proud."

"No student is going to do this by themselves," said Victor Valley College President Robert Silverman during the September 3 presentation. "All we ask: Change the world when you're done."

A year after his death, Brandon Smith is doing his part to do just that.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.