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For CALS Alum, Giving Back is Giving Forward

For recent alumnus Malachi Curtis, the people and programs at North Carolina State University have been instrumental in molding him into the person he is today. 

It’s one of the reasons Curtis has given on NC State’s annual Day of Giving each year for the past four years. He wants to help ensure those people and programs continue to make a difference in the lives of current students.

There’s another reason the agriculture teacher at East Burke High School in Burke County, North Carolina, gives as well: to invest in the future of his own students who will help shape the world of agriculture in the years to come.

“I have a career where I invest in students,” says Curtis, who graduated in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science. “If I continually talk about investing in students, and encourage my students to go to NC State, I feel like I should put my money where my mouth is.”

It all reflects the way Curtis sees his career: as one of service. At NC State, he knew he wanted to work with students in agriculture education. Teaching was something he’d been interested in for most of his life. His aunt, who is a teacher, was among his biggest inspirations.

As a student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), he explored the vast number of careers available in agriculture, but simply felt something was missing anytime he veered away from teaching.

“How am I helping make the future better?” he remembers thinking. “It felt like this responsibility that I have — to help the next generation understand the role of agriculture.”

a man stands at a table explaining different plants and soils exhibited in cups and bottles.
Malachi Curtis helps a student demonstrate soil erosion at Ag Day to fifth graders in Burke County.

For the Love of Farming

Passing by farming fields and cattle herds as a child, he remembers thinking the work that people did on those farms must be really interesting.

As he got more involved in agriculture in high school, Curtis began to see the agriculture industry as a service industry.

“Agriculture is the most important industry in the world,” he says. “There’s an old saying — without agriculture, we’d be naked, hungry and sober.”

Curtis had his first exposure to NC State in high school, when his involvement with North Carolina FFA and his high school agriculture classes each provided opportunities to meet NC State professors.

“I’d meet professors one time and they’d instantly remember my name,” he recalls.

When it came time to go to college, NC State was his number one choice. So, when he was accepted, there was no question where he would enroll.

a man wearing a blue jacket
Malachi Curtis served as the state vice president for FFA from 2019-2020.

At NC State, Curtis became involved in the Agriculture Extension Club, the Young Farmers and Ranchers Program, and North Carolina FFA, ultimately serving as a state officer for FFA.

“I loved every second of it,” he says.

Paying It Forward

The relationships Curtis built at NC State with professors, peers and industry professionals through internships have been essential since he graduated.

“They’re people I can call on if I have a question about anything,” he says.

As Curtis talks about giving back, the support he received is front-and-center in his mind. He considers himself lucky because his parents were able to be his biggest supporters when he attended college. “They bought in to what I wanted to do from early on, and they stood behind me the whole time.”

For the people who supported him and for the future agriculture students at NC State, Curtis wants to pay it forward.

“It feels like a responsibility to give back to NC State, and I now have the means to do so,” he says. “I think about when I was a freshman, coming from a small town to this huge institution—there are times you think maybe it’s not for you—but there were those groups and those organizations that opened their arms to me and brought me in.

Curtis especially thinks about his time with NC FFA, and the last line of the FFA motto, “living to serve.”

“A lot of ag students at NC State have roots in FFA,” he says. “Even if it’s just $5 or $10 you can give, it’s going toward something that’s going to make someone’s experience better at NC State.

“You’re impacting somebody’s life in a positive way.”

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.