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Elizabeth Smart walked out of the federal courthouse Wednesday with renewed energy for her future.
"Today is the end of a very long chapter and the beginning of a very beautiful chapter for me," she beamed to a crowd anxious to hear where she's headed after the sentencing of Brian David Mitchell.
"I would encourage and ask for prayers that everyone pray for children who are still missing," Smart said. "Keep an eye out, keep looking for them because miracles can happen and they still do happen today. It's been a huge miracle in my life that I can be standing in front of you today."
Smart, who recently returned from serving an 18-month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France, said she is preparing for her final year at Brigham Young University in Provo, where she plans to graduate next spring as a music major.
The 23-year-old is contemplating law school after observing prosecutors bring her captors to justice. She's also certain she'll be an advocate for child crime victims, in particular as she works to get her new foundation, The Elizabeth Smart Foundation, off the ground.
On Wednesday, National Missing Children's Day, Smart held up photos of girls whose cases are similar to her own: Bianca Piper, of Missouri; Holly Lynn Bobo, of Tennessee; and Jennifer Kesse, of Florida. The difference is those girls haven't made it home yet.
Smart said she knows that the world is likely to remember her as "the girl who got kidnapped." But she said using her experience to help others is a motivation that makes having a perpetual spot in the limelight less intimidating.
"I think one of the biggest ways to overcome any trial in life to heal from any kind of experience is by helping those around you," she said. "I'm just happy to be here today and to be able to continue on with my life and hopefully make a difference in the world in the lives of children that count."