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Taking My Own Advice

If the average Joe would look at my background, it may not make sense that I am a High School Career Coach. For those who are familiar with agriculture and what it entails would know that it makes perfect sense. My journey to where I am today is filled with career readiness and leadership opportunities which I use daily.

I grew up on my dad and uncle’s farm Huckleberry Dairy and Beef in Floyd, Virginia. My childhood consisted of cattle, Farm Bureau and Young Farmers meetings, and 4-H. When the time came to go to high school, initially I avoided signing up for agriculture classes and FFA. I wanted to be different than everyone else in my family. But eventually I turned around and never went back. FFA ended up taking me across the state, nation, and world as a state FFA officer.

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2008-2009 State President, Chris Atkins, and me with Dr. Larry Case, former National FFA Advisor

After deferring a year of college for my state officer term I was ready to get back in the formal educational saddle. One year of community college and then I was off to Virginia Tech to study Dairy Science, with the hope to go back to the family farm. But my state officer days showed me another side of agriculture that I really enjoyed, education. So I switched degrees, but got my dairy fix through the VT Dairy Club.

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We made our mark when the Virginia Tech Dairy Club traveled to Spain

Throughout college I continued to take advantage of opportunities to travel and network through agricultural organizations, such as National FFA, Dairy Club, Virginia Farm Bureau and more. As adulthood loomed I decided to go ahead and get my master’s degree in Career and Technical Education. Mostly because I highly valued student teaching and knew I couldn’t handle going to school and teaching full time. I had the great opportunity to student teach at one of the best FFA Chapters around and where two of my dear friends were the teachers.

National FFA Convention with my members from Floyd

Anyway, fast forward a bit and you’d find me teaching agriculture at my Alma Mater, Floyd County High School. A few years in, I loved the students and the content I was teaching, but it felt like it wasn’t the place for me. Opportunity arose when I stumbled across a job posting for High School Career Coach for Wytheville Community College. A position there would allow me to focus on what I really loved – helping students figure out their career goals and how to get there.

So here I am, a high school career coach with an agriculture degree. But remember, agriculture education falls under Career and Technical Education. Basically this means that entwined in the curriculum with cows, plants, and mechanics, there’s a lot of leadership and career development. Even though I didn’t have a background in counseling or human services, my soft skills gained through agricultural leadership opportunities are utilized every day in my job. High School Career Coach is a dream job, and studying agriculture and gaining experience through the industry is truly the best path I could’ve taken to get here.

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Besides being a Career Coach for WCC I also serve as Collegiate Young Farmers Sponsor. Here I am last spring with two of the members at graduation.

When I was initially sent information about applying for VALOR I honestly brushed it off. “I probably wouldn’t be allowed to miss work,” I thought to myself. Later, I received a formal invitation to apply. I took that as a sign that maybe I should consider it. As I worked on my application I found that I have settled on myself. I’ve stressed so much to be better and do better, that now I’m just scraping by. But I know deep down that doesn’t help anyone – my students, my friends, my family, and especially myself. I spend my days telling students to take advantage of opportunities, now I need to take my own advice.

So my goal from this VALOR journey is to be challenged. Challenged to not be ok with who I am; but instead of worrying about it – move forward and improve. Challenged to be uneducated about a topic and learn. Challenged to feel uncomfortable and network when everyone and everything is new. Challenged to truly take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

One of my favorite comedians, Amy Poehler, once said:

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”

As Session II draws near, I’m excited to spend lots of time with inspiring people – folks we meet during our sessions and of course, the VALOR fellows. I know we will challenge each other and also challenge ourselves to be better agriculturalists and leaders.

I hope you all continue to follow our journey through Virginia, the USA, and around the globe as we build better agriculture leaders and obtain results!

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