The last five years of my life have been truly enlightening. What astounds me is that the biggest lessons that I have learned have not been in the classroom, but rather a result of real life problems and experiences. I also cannot forget to mention all of the amazing teachers, mentors, and friends that I have met over the course of my college career. I also cannot proceed without mentioning the unrelenting support of my family. None of my successes could have happened without the guidance and wisdom that my parents passed on to me.
I feel very privileged to have attended a public university to obtain my Bachelor of Science. If I could have gotten the credentials that I need to become a Registered Dietitian without attending university, I most certainly would have. I have never been a fan of how the school system works, and how everyone’s is expected to learn and test the same exact way. I firmly believe that each individual has a unique way in which they learn best, and it simply isn’t fair to hold everyone to the same standards. But I knew that I would have to jump through some hoops to get where I wanted to go. This is just how the world works, I have come to accept that. It most certainly is not fair – what it takes to become “successful” and build a career in today’s society. The system is corrupt, and it will take a lot of dismantling to see real change.
In light of the recent racial injustices that have been amplified recently, I want to fully acknowledge my white privilege and admit that it has played a huge role in my educational achievements. Before I move into the details of my previous educational experiences, I want to state that I plan to fight for justice and equality, for all, for the rest of my life. I plan to use my platform, my career, and my privilege to amplify voices who have been previously forced into silence. I have a lot of work to do in regard to becoming a better ally (I think that all white people do), but I am more than motivated to do this work. I’m in it for the long haul.
I also feel that it is important for me to document that the last 3 months of my last semester of my undergraduate program was greatly interrupted by COVID-19. The added stress that this pandemic brought on during such a crucial time in my life will never be forgotten. This is a shout out to all of the people who graduated in Spring 2020. I am so proud of us. Let’s do great things.
That being said – here is a tribute to the three places that I have learned the most over the last five years.
1. Louisiana State University
I attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA. Coming from a small private high school, I honestly didn’t know what to expect coming into such a large, public university. Despite warnings, I can honestly say that I was never majorly intimidated and the LSU Campus Life staff does a great job at helping students find their community while attending. I quickly fell in love with the huge oak trees and other native plants that covered the campus.
After orientation, I was actually motivated to create an on-campus student organization called “The Plant-Based Society” as a way for vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians to connect with people who were like-minded. I served as president all five years that I attended LSU, and this organization of people brought so much joy and hope to my otherwise overwhelming life. I learned so many important lessons in leadership being involved in the Plant-Based Society. I learned things that my professors could never articulate within a classroom. I encourage anyone who is still in undergraduate school to get involved in student organizations and leadership! More and more, employers/graduate programs value experience and volunteer work just as much/more than GPA.
I majored in Nutrition and Food Sciences with a focus in Dietetics. This is required for anyone aiming to become a registered dietitian. A Registered Dietitian (RD for short) is essentially the highest form of a nutritional professional and is a legally regulated term. RD’s are required to complete 4 years of undergraduate/graduate course work, 1200 hours of a supervised internship, and must sit for and pass the RD exam in order to obtain a license to practice. It is an insanely rigorous process. I knew nutrition was my passion, and I wanted the most credibility that I could get. This was the only way.
Halfway through college I began to struggle in one of my chemistry classes, and I ended up getting behind since some of the required nutrition classes were only available during the spring semesters. Since I knew that I would have to be there an extra year, I decided to add on a minor so that I could remain full-time with classes. I chose Horticulture as my minor because I had taken up a huge interest in growing food. I knew that I would want to incorporate growing food, local food systems, and sustainable agriculture into my practice as an RD someday so this seemed like a logical route. Which leads me into the next place that I felt like I learned abundantly.
2. Fullness Farm
It all started when I spotted their beautiful produce at the Red Stick farmers market during my sophomore year at LSU. The more often that I went to the farmers market, the more I became intrigued by the idea of growing food. I joined the newly formed Sustainable Agriculture Club at LSU just out of curiosity and that really exposed me to a whole new world. I fell in love with not only growing food, but doing so in a sustainable manner.
During my junior year I decided to add on a minor of Horticulture to my degree program. I wanted to be able to not only recommend eating more fruits and vegetables to my future clients’ diets, but I also wanted to be able to aid them in growing it for themselves so that it was more easily accessible. I was able to get credit for horticulture class by interning at Fullness Farm.
Fullness is a small-scale, sustainable, and organic farm located in Baton Rouge, LA. Interning and eventually working part-time at Fullness over the last two and a half years has opened my eyes and deepened my respect for where food comes from. Farming is HARD work. Not only is the physical labor intensive (especially on a small organic farm where little machinery/equipment is used to aid the processes) but mentally a large toll is taken on farmers when it comes to crop planning, revenue, and balancing time with family/friends.
While working here, I learned:
- How to prep beds for planting (raking, hoeing, fertilizing, compost, etc.)
- How to plant by transplant and by seed
- How to prep trays for seeding transplants
- How to properly take care of germinating seedlings
- Field maintenance
- Harvesting techniques
- Cut flower production
- Washing and packing fruits/vegetables for market
- Etc. Etc. Etc.
The list could go on. There are so many small details that go into running a farm. The greatest take-away from my experience at the farm has to be my deepened understanding of food production. Many people don’t realize what goes on in order to produce their food. We take it for granted. It’s so easy for us to run over to the grocery store to grab what we need. What we don’t see at the grocery store is the months/years of planning, preparation, maintenance, harvesting, processing, and transport of our food.
Thank you to Grant and Allison, for all that you and your beautiful farm has taught me.
3. Reve Coffee Roasters
This business has been dear to my heart for about 7 years now. I remember going on coffee dates with my mom at the old location off of W Pinhook road in Lafayette, LA. I had wanted to work for them during my high school years, but I knew that I would make much better money working as a server in the restaurant industry. Once I moved to Baton Rouge for school, I worked at a few local businesses there before I was offered a job as the assistant manager for a new Reve location that was under construction. I gladly left my other job to help establish a name for Reve here in Baton Rouge.
I believe that I thrived in a managerial role mostly because of my organizational skills, and my previous leadership experience with student organizations. I found out that I really was capable of leading a team well, which is certainly an important skill for a future dietitian to have. I eventually moved into the general manager position while still being enrolled as a full-time student and working a few hours per week at Fullness. I learned the hard way – how very important delegation is. I was busy all of the time, but I absolutely loved being able to fill my time with things that I was passionate about.
The science of coffee is something that I will always be intrigued by, and I do not plan to stop learning. Although my time working in the specialty coffee world came to an abrupt close due to the COVID-19 pandemic that exploded this past March – I will always be so grateful for the people that I was able to meet and work with during the almost two years that our Baton Rouge location was open.
Working in coffee has led me to making life-long friends. I say this all of the time, but specialty coffee shops really do attract the best people. For my friends reading this (you know who you are) who I’ve met through Reve: I love you! You are all so completely creative, passionate, inspiring, and talented in your own unique ways. I’m grateful to have crossed paths with you all! #TeamReve forever.
I still have a lot of learning to do. This is definitely not the end of my educational career. However, I wanted to commemorate the last five years somehow (since I didn’t get a proper graduation ceremony, thanks COVID) and writing is the best way that I know how. In just a few weeks I will be starting a combined program to complete my dietetic internship and my Masters of Nutritional Science. I am so looking forward to this next stage of life, and all of the new places and people that I will get to learn from.