Sunday, July 2, 2017

Farm and Food Teen Training Participant Accepted to Berea College

Veronica Smith's life reached a crossroads in 2012. The 13-year-old had been on what she now calls "a bad path." Poverty, bad decisions and bad habits left her feeling hopeless about her future. That's when she met Debbie Strickland, program director for Rural Resources' Farm and Food Teen Training program and embarked on a five-year, life-changing experiential learning journey.

Smith credits the program with pointing her life in a better direction.

“Rural Resources showed me I had a very wide range of options,” she said. “They provided me with the support and the structure that a lot of kids in the county need and they put me on a path toward success.”

One step along that path to success was connecting her to Berea College in Kentucky.  Berea College is a tuition free, federally recognized work college for economically disadvantaged students in Appalachia. It is ranked 60 in the 2017 list of best liberal arts colleges in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

Smith, who graduated from South Greene High School in Greene County, Tennessee this year, will be attending Berea in the Fall. She had to prove financial need, as well as academic ability to attend the college.  

Strickland said Smith is the second teen from the program to attend Berea. She is preceded by Faelyn Campbell, graduate of Greeneville High in 2016. Both Smith and Campbell were among a group of program participants that toured the Berea campus with Strickland in 2014.

Smith said she now has clearly defined goals for her education and career.

“After college, I hope to travel with the Peace Corps and teach in underdeveloped countries,” she said. “Then when I come back, I plan to try to teach English and work in education administration to try to make an impact on small county administrative systems and school systems.”

Smith spent four years in the Farm and Food Teen Training program learning about gardening, livestock, culinary arts, and business planning and implementation. During the summer of 2016 she interned at Rural Resources, helping with communications for the program through Facebook, blogging, and public speaking.

“Veronica excelled in the teen program,” Strickland said. “I feel that Berea, a school of that caliber,  is going to open a door for her to change her life and the lives of others. I believe she's going to use this opportunity to the utmost.”

Rural Resources is a nonprofit working to connect farms, food and families through community education, programs to empower food-insecure youth, children’s programs and sustainable agricultural practices to build a vibrant local food economy, as well as addressing the needs of local farmers, gardeners and consumers.