When I was applying to the MILE Program, I thought there was a perfect formula in college that would spring me to immediate success. My assumption was that specific organization involvement, perfect class schedules, and the same internships as everyone else would land me in one of 10 agricultural jobs I thought existed. In my classes and organizations, I heard the taglines about advocating for agriculture but had no idea how I fit into that narrative. While I thought I had a formula, in the back of my mind I wasn’t sure where I could possibly fit or add value in my communities. However, our time in the MILE program opened my eyes to the endless opportunities that exist for students like me.
As we sat with leaders in the industry, state, and nation, it began to dawn on me that leadership and success are individual to every person, and as we learn about ourselves, we can begin to find the space where we are the most impactful. Like the leaders we sat across the table (or camera) from, I learned I could add value in spaces that I never knew existed if I decided to cultivate the strengths I’ve been given. There are so many employment opportunities that reach outside of what I initially associated with our industry. We learned that advocacy doesn’t look the same for anyone – where I add value may look completely different than anyone else, and that is a good thing!
I credit much of this development to the different stages and focuses of the MILE Program. Focusing on personal leadership our first semester gave me a solid foundation of understanding that served me well as we continued throughout the program. When we met with a professional who cited strengths that I could identify with, it felt like a lightbulb moment. Those moments helped me understand how I could employ those same strengths in my life. When compared to the week I applied, my understanding of self and next steps are much different. I am confident in my abilities and the role I will play in the development of our industry. While my formula has changed, my vision is much clearer. My parents raised me with the belief that we create change where our feet are, and the MILE program has given me the platform and tools to create that change.