Beth Gaines, executive director of the Kansas FFA Foundation, experienced a change of heart her junior year of college. This occurrence was frightening at first, but allowed her to realize her true passion and started her on the track toward her current career.
“Follow your heart and your passions, they will take you where you need to go,” Gaines says.
Throughout her childhood and early college years, Gaines was solely interested in utilizing her Kansas State degree (’91) in agricultural communications and journalism for radio broadcasting.
“As a junior in college, I had an internship with a radio company and realized very quickly that was not what I wanted,” Gaines says.
Getting an opportunity to experience the reality of working in the radio industry allowed her to gain new insight and understand what to expect from a career in broadcasting. Although the internship caused her to drift from her original plan, it led her to her true passion within agricultural communications.
Graduating from college is no easy feat, but for one agricultural education alumnus, it just wasn’t enough. Will Johnson (’17) has went above and beyond after graduation from Kansas State University.
After student teaching in the spring of 2017 at Cimarron High School, he took a leap and accepted a job as a teacher at Sublette High School, a nearby school that didn’t have an FFA program – that quickly changed.
During the summer, Johnson converted the essentially unused shop from storage to a working environment and began paperwork to start an FFA program at the school.
Johnson, a Whitewater, Kansas, native, says, “I really like the area and the people out here. It seemed like a chance to start something new for the community.”
This fall he is teaching an introduction to agriculture class for eighth graders and an agriculture, food, and natural resources class; an animal science class; and an agricultural structures class for high school students. In the future, he hopes to add a plant and soil science class and research in agriculture class to the curriculum.
Mikhayla DeMott, the newly hired audience engagement specialist for the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement (CREE), serves many roles. Agricultural communicator, Kansas State University alumna, and Miss Rodeo Kansas.
DeMott understands the need to connect agricultural based, rural businesses to information and research on new-media technology. She will foster that connection in her position at the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement through event planning, client outreach, media relations, and content creation.
“I’m very excited to see CREE grow this year under the vision of our newly hired director, Cassie Wandersee, and staff,” DeMott says.
She graduated (’17) with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and journalism with minors in mass communications and leadership studies from K-State. DeMott’s passion for agriculture was developed at a young age and still continues to grow. She grew up on a horse farm in Rio, Illinois, and discovered the joy in sharing the story of agriculture through rodeo.
Alumnus Jay O’Brien (’13) did not begin his college career knowing he wanted to be an agricultural education major.
“I came from a family that homesteaded in the 1800s in the Cherryvale area, so I originally thought I might want to be a farmer or rancher, or even considered engineering,” O’Brien says. “I found a niche at K-State in the Agricultural Education Club and within my agriculture classes. From there, I started to be more involved with both.”
Stacy Mayo, agricultural communications and journalism (’07), has used her talents in advertising and public relations to help agribusinesses around the nation to grow. After spending a few years in Chicago and Milwaukee, her career brought her back to Kansas to serve as the state’s agricultural trademark program director at the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
As director of the program, From the Land of Kansas, Mayo works to brand Kansas agricultural products as safe and wholesome. In addition, her efforts support Kansas farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses to achieve their business goals.