I stumbled across the Thomas H. Lutsey-Waseda Farms scholarship in much the same way many members of Generation Z make their best online finds: scrolling through Instagram. A sponsored advertisement for the scholarship popped up on my feed, and I decided to take a closer look. I met all the guidelines, so naturally, I applied even though I figured winning was a long shot.
After I pressed submit on the application, the weeks didn’t waste any time passing as my senior year of high school came to a whirlwind of a close, peppered with more scholarship applications, AP exams, award banquets, and track meets. Amid the chaos, I practically forgot about the scholarship. That is, until the Senior Awards Ceremony at my high school, when I was announced a recipient of the Lutsey-Waseda Farms scholarship.
The scholarship, $10,000 spread across four years, was an incredible comfort to both my college budget and my nerves about university tuition. Post-secondary education comes at a formidable cost that is hard, I think, for many young adults to fully comprehend. The pursuit of a four-year degree feels almost like a gamble; will we make enough to pay off our student debt and live comfortably, or will we be making loan payments until well after even our children are in college? Unfortunately, this tradeoff tends to gain severity for farm kids. After all, given the current state of agriculture in the United States, especially on small farms, few farm families can afford to offer their children much more than emotional support as they head off to college.
However, as helpful as the scholarship has been in offsetting tuition costs, it’s made another contribution of even greater value: belief in my own abilities. I figured the selection committee must have seen something in me that inspired confidence, enough to trust that I will turn their generous gift into positive impacts within the agricultural community after graduation. And, if they trust me to accomplish meaningful change and come out ahead in the gamble of college, why shouldn’t I trust myself?
With this self-assurance, I jumped into my first year of college with vigor and determination. Enough, in fact, to boldly change my major from biology, which had seemed like a safe option, to a double major in Professional Journalism and Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. I realized that what I love to do is write, what I’m interested in is law, and what I want to do is help small farmers. So, I stepped from science to communication and policy, and I’m excited to continue down this path that I think will best prepare me for a career in agricultural policy, an angle from which I can fight for the changes that our small farmers and rural communities need.
So, with a genuine heart, I thank the Thomas H. Lutsey Waseda Farms Foundation for the financial means to chase my dreams and the confidence to believe they are possible.
Jessica Jurcek is a 2018 Lutsey Scholarship recipient currently attending the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.