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Why is Agriculture Education Important?

By Sarah Ammirato

Why is Agricultural Education important?

To answer that question, let me tell you a little bit about my experience.

I went to Wamogo Regional High School in Litchfield, CT where I was enrolled in the Agriculture Education program. This program, and 8,630 others across the United States focus on teaching students about all aspects of agriculture, food, natural resources and leadership.

An Ag Ed experience is nothing like the traditional high school experience. One of my favorite memories was during peak maple syrup season. It was February and there was about a foot of snow on the ground. That did not stop our class from getting bundled up and heading out into the woods to collect sap and repair lines. We then boiled the sap into syrup, bottled it and enjoyed it over pancakes on the last day of class.

My senior year, we traveled to Yellowstone National Park in Montana/Wyoming over Spring Break. We hiked the Yellowstone Canyon, visited the famous Old Faithful geyser and saw wildlife at every turn. We were immersed in nature in its purest form. It was truly a life changing experience, and I cannot wait to go back there one day.

Moreover, my experience at Wamogo would not have been what it was without my advisors. They are the reason I chose to pursue Agriculture Education.

I decided to continue my agriculture education at the University of Connecticut where my major is Agriculture and Natural Resources. Through the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, I have been given so many hands-on experiences both in and outside of class. Hands-on education remains a large part of the courses I have taken, from halter breaking an Angus heifer to touring local vegetable farms, there is no lack of agricultural experience here. As for leadership opportunities, I serve on the executive board for UConn Block and Bridle and as a College Ambassador, where I have been able to build my skills as a leader.

It is my dream to be a high school Ag teacher, so I can bring my students incredible experiences and give them an appreciation for the agriculture industry.

So back to the question, why is this so important?

To start, everyone relies on agriculture. Food, fiber and natural resources are things we need every day. Agriculture education programs not only teach students how to be farmers, but also train tomorrow’s scientists, nutritionists, teachers and so much more. A combination of classroom instruction and applied agriculture experiences outside of the classroom build the foundation for educated consumers and agriculturists.

Leadership is the final aspect of these programs, and the most universal. Public speaking, job interview techniques, professional skills and knowledge of parliamentary procedure. Students in agriculture education programs have the opportunity to serve as student leaders at the school, district, state and national level. High school students have the opportunity to attend leadership conferences, meet and converse with legislatures at the State Capitol, and achieve awards based on involvement.

So what does it look like in Connecticut? There are twenty high school programs, with about 3,350 students enrolled in agriculture education courses. The student to teacher ratio is one of the lowest in the country at 30:1 across the state. There are four post-secondary schools in the state that offer programs/certifications related to agriculture with undergraduate majors including all areas of agriculture except for education.

The opportunities within these programs, both secondary and post-secondary, are endless. Students who participate in agricultural education programs graduate with the skills necessary to become productive citizens who will succeed in postsecondary education or the workforce.

Expanding My Horizons: To UConn and Beyond

By Julia Assard

 Since I was a little kid, I had always wanted to go to UConn. My parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and almost all of our family friends attended this university. In addition, my dad is employed by the university, so that was always an obvious financial incentive. When applying to colleges as a senior in high school, I considered UConn to be my only serious option and applied to other schools as an afterthought. The day I got my acceptance letter in the mail, I sent in my deposit.

 The only down side of attending UConn for me was that it is only a mere twenty-four minute drive to my house. In addition, from my tiny high school with only 400 students, about fifteen people from each grade go to UConn. While many of my hometown friends were going here, I knew that I wanted to branch out as much as I could. I know people here now that only hang out with people that they went to high school with, and while I love spending time with my old friends, I craved something new. I wanted to be around people that I hadn’t known for the past eleven years. The idea of being in a lecture hall of 500 people I knew nothing about was both scary and exciting for me.

The author (center) with her “new” friends

For my freshman year, I decided to choose a random roommate who is now one of my best friends. On the second day of school, we sat with a random girl in the dining hall who quickly became the third in our trio. While I did have one person from high school that I was close friends with all of freshman year, I made it a goal to try to seek out new people and create new bonds. I wanted to be able to have the “Big Chill Weekend” that my parents and their college friends have every summer in the Cape. Finding new friends in college can be difficult, but I have been lucky enough to find people and make new connections and groups every year that has truly made the phrase, “you can always make a big school feel small,” true to me.

Looking beyond (from the Homer Babbidge Library)

 Choosing a college is a daunting task, but it seemed an obvious choice to me. While I have been lucky in that manner and love the school I chose, it is important for people to go somewhere that challenges them in some way. My challenge was entering a school that was about seventy times larger than my high school and being in a place where I didn’t know every detail  about every person’s life. In addition, my first semester of college I took the dreaded CHEM 1127, CALC 1131, and BIOL 1107. This course load was overwhelming, and my first exams came back with lower scores than I had hoped for. The transition from high school classes to college courses was a shock, and it scared me that I may not be cut out to be a physician assistant as I had always hoped. It took dedication, a lot of studying, and good friends, and now I find excitement in being challenged by upper level courses on the path to my future career.  In order for people to gain new knowledge, they have to do things that are scary and run the risk that it might not work out, but if it is a goal then hard work and perseverance will bring you to where you need to be.

Attending graduate school to become a physician assistant is now within my grasp. In my search for programs, I am now looking for schools much further away from home. While I rarely go home other than for breaks, I still have the comfort of knowing I am close and can always visit my dad at work, of course, if I need anything. The idea of being somewhere far from Bolton, CT is a scary thought but a necessary step to take. Attending a graduate school away from home will provide more independence, experiences and connections with new people.  After three years at UConn,  I am excited to be thinking about the next step.  In the words of Bilbo Baggins, “I think I am quite ready for another adventure.”

Maintaining Long Distance Relationships While in College

By Sydney Barker

Leaving for college is always a very emotional time, no matter how far away you are. It’s a time for leaving behind your life as you once knew it and moving on to the next chapter.

With love from Connecticut, see you soon!

When I left for college, the hardest thing was saying goodbye. Standing in the airport with my bags packed, I knew it would be months before I would see my family and all of my friends from home. Being immersed at school in the excitement and hustle of everyday activities helped, but I still had the aching feeling that something was missing. I missed seeing my friends and family every day, and being so distant from them was a very difficult adjustment. I had to consciously try to keep up with their lives in a way I never had to before, while I was also making new friends and forming relationships in school.

In the three years since I started college, I’ve seen a lot of relationships that were meaningful to me in high school fade away, but the few that persisted are stronger than ever. Every moment we spend together, it’s as if we were never apart. The biggest advice I’d have for individuals trying to maintain their friendships from home is:

  1. Make the effort to reach out as often as possible! (The less you keep up with their lives the further away you will feel.)
  2. Be open about how you feel; don’t ignore the fact that you miss them– embrace it because it means you care.
  3. When you do see them again, make an extra effort to go out and do something new or special, as well as something you’ve done a million times before. (It’s important to maintain your link to the past while also making new memories together.)

Since being in college I have acquired a long-distance boyfriend, who I only get to see two out of twelve months in the year, unfortunately. While we are very much friends first, maintaining a long-distance romantic relationship can be very different and much more difficult than maintaining ties with friends or family. One of the biggest decisions you can make is whether or not you want to put up with the distance, and it is not something you should take lightly. It’s very important to consider not only the other person and how much you love them but also your own needs. A lot of a long-distance relationship is going without, and only you can decide if you think it’s worth it to wait or not. Ask yourself if you can picture yourself with someone else and if you can picture your life without them. Make sure that this is your decision and yours alone; you can’t let your parents, friends or even your partner sway you one way or another. For this to work, you have to truly believe that this is what you want.

Once you have decided to embark on the journey that is a long-distance relationship (romantic or otherwise), it’s important to remember:

  1. Make as much time as physically possible to talk to them. Facetime/call/text as much as you can, hopefully for at least an hour a day. Tell them all the small things that happen to make them feel like they’re with you.
  2. Sometimes the most frustrating thing will be when they’re upset and you can’t hug them to make them feel better; try not to take this frustration out on them and instead focus on comforting them with your words by reminding them how much they’re loved.
  3. Let them go out with their new friends and make plans with other people. Trust is the number one most important thing in your relationship, and if you let jealousy get in the way, they will end up resenting you for holding them back.
  4. Write some letters. I know this sounds ridiculously cheesy, but it’s a way of feeling close to someone that emailing and texting and facetiming just cannot convey. It will mean the world to them, and writing down your thoughts will remind you how much they mean to you.

Whether you stay close with your friends from home or your friendships fade or you meet the love of your life ten minutes from your house or ten thousand miles from your house, remember to be true to yourself. What you want and need is the most important thing and if it is meant to be it will be.

How To Guide: Doodling to Save Your Life

by Chrishima Richards

Doodle is quite a silly word, isn’t it? You can imagine that it connotes free-form movement of a unique kind. To doodle means to scribble absentmindedly, which indeed inspires a sense of calmness when facing an unexciting or even stressful event. This idle transmission of bodily energy into hand-drawn (or digital) imagery during a three-hour long lecture, for example, typically works to pass time and can allay growing insanity. This sounds dramatic; however, it is a sensual method to soothe boredom and induce creativity. Doodling is an art-form that stimulates activity in the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain, and allows the pen-holder to unlock a portion of their mind that usually is tucked under the logical, analytical, and linear left cerebral hemisphere. The right side is responsible for the artistic ability that all people harness, but may lack the confidence to unravel on their own.

Historically, presidents and leaders have been caught in idle daze, escaping the moment while scribbling, revealing an unguarded side to them. During moments of national crisis, prominent figures need a temporary escape as well. This article lists several of our U.S. presidents that indulged in a series of geometric/abstract, and playful doodles: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/09/all-the-presidents-doodles/305115/

My belief is that everyone is capable of drawing and producing art regardless of physical or mental disabilities, and natural dexterities. Of course, there are individuals that possess a biological aptitude for creating beautiful artwork; however, meticulous line work and generally skillful drawing skills are proficiencies that anyone can develop through years of repetition and dedication to the craft. It is not always automatic to grasp concepts on the initial trial; practice makes perfect. When describing a task that is near impossible to complete, people often say “I can’t ­­_______ for my life,” to express their inability to perform said task, after realizing the amount of effort it takes or difficulty level. Every prominent piece of art first started out as a doodle that crowded the margin lines of a crisp sheet of eight and a half by eleven notebook paper.

I quite often find myself in an altered state, where my mind wanders to a creative universe outside of the humdrum and mundane reality. I cherish my sloppy sketches that lie in the margins of my notebook pages because they have personality and flavor to them. I love the way the ink absorbs smoothly into the page as I glide the pen in an organic manner, sometimes in a completely demented fashion with no sense of direction; everything flows and incites rebirth with every pen stroke because something new comes alive when I interrupt a line to start a new one. Here are some of my own doodles:

A Seat at the Table

Though the University of Connecticut is diverse in a myriad of different ways, and offers a number of different resources for minorities, it can still be difficult for minorities to adjust to this environment. I attended a high school that had predominantly minority students. It was definitely a challenge for me to adjust to a predominately white campus during my freshman year. I was curious as to whether or not other minorities on this campus felt the same way as I did. I sat down with a group of my peers to discuss their experiences as minorities here on campus.  

“Underrepresented, unfair, interesting, annoying,” are just a few of the ways that the women I spoke with described their paths at UConn. K.C. (of Haitian American Descent), spoke about how the common “stereotypes about African Americans can cause additional pressure on students.” For instance, it is a common misconception that minorities are only on this campus as a result of Affirmative Action. Some people even believe that minorities are incapable of producing the grades to earn a position here at this University, just as any other student. UConn’s position of 18th on a list of top public schools proves that acceptance into this university is no small feat. K.C. describes this undermining of minorities, specifically African Americans, as “unfair.” This is not only an issue on this campus but throughout the nation, such as the Fisher v University of Texas case.

“Minorities are not represented in many of the student activities.”  S.E., a Jamaican student, expressed how the lack of representation affects how much our voices are heard. Whether it be through faculty members or our student body, issues that pertain specifically to minorities are often ignored as a result of this underrepresentation. “Our voices are not heard; we do not receive the equality.” One issue S.E. spoke about was how some campus programs that all students could potentially benefit from are not properly advertised to the entire student body; specifically minorities. Thus, lack of representation can cause missed opportunities for minority students.

Many of the issues that my peers spoke about resonated with me and my experiences as a Jamaican American student. I find myself being one of the few minorities, and/or the only black student in the programs that I’m involved in that aren’t specifically geared towards people of color. And in most of my classes I am the only black student. The intersection of lack of diversity, misrepresentation through the media, and lack of exposure, has often put me in a position where I represent my entire race. In everything I do on campus, I think of how I represent Black people, and Jamaicans, to all my peers, some of which have only experienced minorities though the media. Though this is a role that I have long played, it still adds a certain level of pressure on me as a student in these situations.

My experiences as a minority student on this campus have been trying in some ways; in contrast, I’ve been exposed to so many valuable experiences and people as a result of it. I have personally gained from my participation in the African American Cultural Center, the Women’s Center, and the Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center. These centers have connected me with students and faculty members that understand and have faced similar issues as I have. In these safe spaces, I have a voice and I am represented. Through involvement in academic programs such as The Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP), I have been connected with a community of STEM scholars that are all underrepresented on campus. Through LSAMP, I learn about valuable opportunities that I may have otherwise missed, I am connected with other STEM majors that face similar challenges, and I have gained mentors and have had the opportunity to act as a mentor to other students. As a member of the National Council of Negro women, I have found a safe space to connect and develop with other black women on campus. Though many of the members come from different walks of life, and have different experiences on campus, we are all able to bond over a shared culture, and uplift one another through the challenges we face specifically as black women on and off campus.

Like me, many of the minorities that I’ve interacted with on campus have faced similar issues; on the other hand, we have also found solace in similar programs geared specifically towards the culture we identify with. For this very reason, the cultural centers, the programs they house, and other academic programs specifically for minorities are vital at UConn. There is a need for more diversity in all aspects of campus life at UConn.  Though the resources that I’ve touched on have a powerful impact on many students, there is still much to be done. It is incumbent upon those that hold positions of privilege on this campus to step out of their comfort zone, communicate, listen and take a seat at the table with minorities, to understand and help foster true diversification at UConn. I believe that through education, and more exposure, UConn can begin to alleviate some of the challenges minorities face on campus.

A Foreign Perspective on College

Singapore
Singapore

The idea of “home” has always been an ambiguous term for me. Before arriving at UConn, I had lived in four different countries, attended five different schools, and was basically always on the move. The thought of making yet another move to college did not intimidate me in the slightest, which in hindsight, was extremely naïve of me. As every high school student does, I had a preconceived notion of what college should be like, and some may say, very unrealistic expectations of what the next four years of my life were going to look like.

I made the move to America alone, with my family being 10,000 miles away in Singapore, and suddenly it all hit me. I didn’t know a single person in this country, I hadn’t decided on my major, and I most importantly, I didn’t have any winter clothes for the upcoming frost.

First Winter in the US
First Winter in the US

Although the first few weeks were without a doubt miserable, I slowly started to find myself, and I realized that the “college experience” doesn’t just happen on its own, it is something you have to build for yourself. It became very clear that putting myself out there and talking to as many strangers as I could was a necessity if I was ever going to meet people that I liked. I realized that I had very little interest in any of my Economics classes (the major that I had intended on pursuing), but rather that I was truly passionate about the Environmental courses that I was enrolled in. Being on my own helped me discover my passions and helped me figure out what kind of people that I want to surround myself with.

College is what you make of it. As cheesy at it sounds, I have found this to be the most accurate representation of my past two years here at UConn. Put yourself out there, meet as many people as you can, and take as wide a variety of classes as you possibly can, because there is no way of knowing what you’re truly passionate about if you do not let yourself explore the options.