Re.engineer Magazine - Winter 2022

H B C U S P O T L I G H T

LET'S CHOP IT UP!

WH A T W A S THE DEFINING MOMENT TH A T INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A C A REER IN STEM ? During the transition from my junior year to my senior year in high school, I was still unclear on what career/major I wanted to pursue in college. I give a tremendous amount of credit to my guidance counselor, Mrs. Jerrie Booker. She knew I excelled in math and science, my potential, and the impending workforce climate; along with what it would take to have a productive career. She possessed the foresight to know that a career in agricultural sciences would be pivotal in the future and offer a plethora of job opportunities. Trusting her guidance, I applied and received the opportunity to participate in the Urban Forestry (UFOR) Program at Southern University and A&M College the summer after my junior year. This three-week program was instrumental in my decision to pursue a career in STEM. Following my high school graduation, I was afforded another great opportunity to participate in Bayou Phase VII that summer. Both programs were impactful and affirmed my decision to pursue a career in STEM. It was also a bonus the programs came with stipends. HOW DID A TTENDING A N HBCU PREP A RE YOU PROFESSION A LLY ? Before I even began my college career at Southern University, the renowned institution was already preparing me for what we called back then “The Real World”. As previously mentioned, I participated in summer programs offered by the university. This was a glimpse to what I could expect as an undergraduate including all the university's available resources. One of my mentors, Rodney Stone, made it his priority to expose the students of UFOR to professional forums locally as well as across the country. During our time in school, Stone (the name we all knew him as) served as USDA US Forest Service Liaison in the College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences. Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANNRS) was the most prominent nationwide student organization for HBCU students and Stone ensured we all joined. MANNRS embodied all the principles needed for us to develop professional skills. Networking, communication, organizational skills, career advancement, training seminars, and self- empowerment are just a few of the topics covered to assist us in our professional preparation and development. Stone, in collaboration with the professors in UFOR, made sure we had all the tools to be competitive in the workforce. If I had to single out one strategy that greatly prepared me professionally, it would have to be summer internships. During my college career, I experienced four internships, sort of year-round during the school year. I will never forget my first internship. I had just completed my freshman year. Stone was the architect, so I trusted him giving him full autonomy on my summer job placement. Before I could ask where, I was on the plane to Seattle, WA for the next three months working for the US Forest Service (USFS). I was only 18 I might add and this was my first time ever leaving my hometown for more than a week. Without a doubt this boosted my professional skills and resolve. The ensuing summer, I worked in Salt Lake City, UT with the USFS, followed by my last two summers in Demopolis, AL and Ft. Gaines, GA with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Visiting Moton Field Airport National Historic Museum with Rodney Stone in Tuskegee, Alabama, 2014

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