Stephon Fitzpatrick’s journey to ag schooling management didn’t begin on a household farm.
The government director of Pennsylvania’s Commission of Agriculture Education Excellence hopes his nontraditional background can change the misperception that agriculture simply means farming and assist diversify a primarily white business.
“At 33, I have this world view. I don’t look like what agriculture represents, and I think that’s my superpower,” stated Fitzpatrick, who began his new put up with the state departments of agriculture and schooling about eight months in the past.
Fitzpatrick was born in Kansas. A toddler of two navy dad and mom, he and his household moved round rather a lot when he was younger, however he ultimately graduated from Polytech High School in Delaware. He then began his bachelor’s diploma in forestry at Tuskegee University in Alabama earlier than transferring to Delaware State and graduating with a level in agriculture, pure assets and associated sciences.
He went again to highschool to get a grasp’s in administration organizational management, and he’s a 12 months away from ending his Ph.D. in organizational management together with his dissertation focusing on what motivates African American college students to check agriculture at traditionally Black land grant schools and universities.
Before all of the levels, his ag business journey began in junior excessive. He cites FFA as his inspiration.
“I always saw the FFA kids in seventh grade on a field trip. Every other week they were on a field trip, going somewhere, trotting down the halls in these blue corduroy jackets,” Fitzpatrick stated.
Interested in arms on experiences, he reached out to an ag trainer to see how he might get entangled. His FFA expertise motivated him to decide on environmental science as his focus at Polytech High School.
His environmental science trainer additionally headed the college’s FFA program, and after a name from Fitzpatrick’s junior excessive trainer citing his uniqueness as a Black particular person with a powerful curiosity in agriculture, his highschool trainer and FFA teacher helped domesticate that rising ardour.
While in FFA, Fitzpatrick turned the primary Black president of his FFA chapter and the primary Black member of the nationwide FFA choir. His time in FFA ended and not using a run for state workplace as a result of he earned a full-ride scholarship to varsity.
Fitzpatrick was one of the winners of the 2006 USDA 1890 Scholars scholarship, which gave him a full journey to Tuskegee University and a federal job.
“This particular award was a game changer,” Fitzpatrick stated, citing the way it opened his world much more to agriculture and to traditionally black faculty and universities.
While learning for his undergraduate diploma, Fitzpatrick obtained concerned with Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences.
“MANRRS gave me a different perspective. It showed that people who did look like me could be successful and have opportunities in this ag industry,” he stated.
Fitzpatrick has served because the National Graduate Student President since 2006. In this place, he has helped expose dozens of children to world agriculture via journey and hands-on experiences.
He believes that these journey experiences are essential for serving to college students acquire curiosity within the business.
“What makes agriculture different than anything is we thrive off of telling a story and the experiential learning piece,” he stated.
He feels that these alternatives are obligatory to assist develop agriculture applications in faculties. In addition to growing the scale and quantity of these applications, Fitzpatrick wish to see a lift in funding for the fee to assist educators within the area.
Another objective, and one of the most important issues that Fitzpatrick stated the fee faces, is the flexibility to attach with the subsequent era, to indicate them that agriculture is attention-grabbing and greater than “just farming.”
In order to get the subsequent era concerned, Fitzpatrick stated the fee must make them conscious that agriculture impacts each profession area and our lives each day. With faculties pushing STEM (science, know-how, engineering and arithmetic) and STEAM (science, know-how, engineering, artwork and arithmetic) curriculums, Fitzpatrick stated that agriculture shouldn’t be a separate matter as a result of it stretches throughout all sciences and plenty of different fields.
Another vital issue that Fitzpatrick believes will enhance curiosity within the agriculture program is a rise within the quantity of ag literacy that’s accessible to everybody. He emphasised that the Commission for Agriculture Education Excellence’s function doesn’t cease with grade faculty as a result of we by no means cease studying in life.
“This is a part of the ag literacy piece, right? This is getting that story out,” Fitzpatrick stated.