MEADOWVIEW, Va. — While touring the campus of Virginia Tech during last week’s orientation for new students, Nicole Eisert was quickly reminded of how far she has come in such a short amount of time.
The teen, who graduated from Patrick Henry High School this spring, will enroll in the college’s Agricultural Technology Program, an associate degree program, before transferring into a four-year program at the school.
Based on her academics and involvement in Future Farmers of America, commonly known as FFA, Eisert has won several scholarships that will open the door to her college education.
She recently won a $250 scholarship at the 2017 Bristol Steer and Heifer Show where she showed livestock.
During Awards Day at Patrick Henry High School this spring, Eisert received the Josey Baker Scholarship for $1,000 to attend Virginia Tech.
Through the national FFA organization, she was awarded the John Deere/Meade Tractor scholarship for $2,000.
Last month, Eisert received a Virginia State FFA degree after completing requirements based on her involvement with FFA throughout high school, work and agriculture experience, community service, leadership skills and academics.
And that’s not all.
Most recently, the teen was awarded $1,225 from the Curtis Mays Scholarship through the Agricultural Technology Program at Virginia Tech, and she’s been notified she will receive a $1,000 scholarship from the Washington County Farm Bureau Federation.
“It’s a huge honor to receive this help. I honestly didn’t know how I would pay for college without the help from scholarships and financial aid,” said Eisert.
The words, “You can be anything you want to be,” spoken by a high school teacher and mentor, resonate with the 17-year-old as she prepares to leave her home in Meadowview and engage in the life of a college student.
Eisert’s story is no different than other agriculture students who are college-bound this fall, except that her interest in agriculture sprouted a little later than for most young farmers.
Eisert and her family moved from California to Southwest Virginia when she was only 6.
The little girl from the city who had never seen a cow, much less halter-trained one, would eventually learn to love farm life and to recognize the importance of agriculture in our daily lives.
In ninth grade, Eisert took a horticulture class taught by Aaron Scyphers, who encouraged the teen to join Future Farmers of America, more commonly referred to as FFA.
“FFA has opened my eyes to so many career opportunities agriculture has to offer,” she said.
“I started to look at agriculture in a different way. Throughout elementary and middle school, I never thought agriculture would be the way I would go.
“I mean, who would have thought a girl from the city would wind up in an agriculture field? It’s really awesome.”
When Eisert was a sophomore, she became the FFA reporter for her school. Her junior year, she assumed the responsibilities of treasurer, and by her senior year, she was serving as president.
During high school, Eisert’s education in agriculture began to blossom. As a longtime member of FFA, she gained skills in livestock judging, soil preparation, horticulture, agriculture and, most importantly, leadership.
By the time she was a senior, Eisert knew she wanted to pursue a career in agriculture but lacked the resources to attend college.
With the guidance and support of Scyphers and his wife, Sarah Scyphers, who teaches agriculture at Holston High School, Eisert received several scholarships that will pave the way.
“We’re proud of Nicole for wanting to pursue a career in agriculture,” said her high school agriculture teacher. “She’s been a leader in our FFA chapter since she was a freshman in high school.”
Scyphers said it’s a growing concern that fewer young people are choosing agriculture for careers.
“The percentage of the population that’s in production of agriculture is decreasing every year while the demand for food continues to increase. If we don’t have enough young folks going into agriculture, eventually those numbers will get further and further apart,” said Scyphers.
“Sarah and I encourage our students to study all phases of agriculture because it’s important for the future of the country — and really for the entire world.”