Jesus Rodriguez – STEM Super Youth Advocate: Wenatchee
Agriculture has always been a part of my life. I have been involved in it since I was eight-years-old when I would harvest tree fruit every summer in the Lake Chelan Valley. At that time, I was focused on earning as much I could so I could purchase school supplies, clothes, and candies (of course!). I recall a time during work seeing a well-dressed man with a nice truck with a four-wheeler in the back arrive at the orchard. The fieldman, as I would later find out, unloaded his four-wheeler and began scouting the neighboring orchard blocks. I thought it was the coolest job and told myself that if I pursue a higher education I could also obtain a decent occupation. It wasn’t until my freshman year in high school when I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the tree fruit industry after joining the National FFA Organization and learning about the importance of agriculture and the challenges that face the industry. From then on, I began cultivating my passion for agriculture.
Along my journey I encountered criticism about pursuing an agriculture-related career. There is a lot of misconceptions about agriculture. As a result, the public has a bad image of it and do not realize the complexity and the many opportunities within it. For example, Science Technology Education and Mathematics (STEM) fields play an integral role in sustaining and advancing agriculture. There is a great demand and many opportunities for young people to become involved and apply their passion(s) in agriculture. This is why one of my professional goals is to communicate these opportunities to high school students so that they are aware of them and hopefully become excited about them.
After my high school graduation, I continued my studies at Wenatchee Valley College where I obtained my associate’s degree in Tree Fruit Production. I then transferred to Washington State University (WSU) and graduated this past May with my Bachelor’s Degree in Integrated Plant Sciences. There, I learned the in-depth science of agriculture production and management. Additionally, I learned about the latest research, technology, and innovations being developed to solve agriculture’s most pressing problems.
At WSU, I became involved with extracurricular activities such as being a student representative of the College of Agriculture, Human & Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS). As a student representative of CAHNRS, I participated in a program called ‘Spark’, which is aimed at igniting the interest of minority high school students in pursuing a higher education in an agriculture-related career/field. I enjoyed participating in this program because it allowed me to share my story and passion with students like myself.
Presently, I am a horticulturist at Washington Fruit & Produce Company. I hope that with my background, work ethic, and service I am able to contribute and make a positive difference in my career industry and community. As I reflect back on my education and extracurricular involvement, my two passions are agriculture and serving my community – that’s why I am a STEM super advocate.