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Student Spotlight: Kailee Grable

Kailee is a first year sophomore who was able to adapt to a challenging circumstance and turn it into an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Tell us how you have spent this summer and your current project making face masks.

My original summer plans were destroyed (like everyone else’s). I had had a research internship with the USDA (scouting corn) and I was going to take it. I emailed them to tell them, but their answer was that they had made the decision to cancel the program, due to COVID-19. It was pretty crushing. I needed that internship for experience, to put on my resume. I pottered around the house for the first few weeks, did some pretty intense yard and house work. And then my mom bought some fun fabric to make our family masks. She is pretty severely immunocompromised, with several chronic illnesses, and I wanted to be sure that she was safe. I’ve grown up sewing and doing all kinds of crafts, so I took on the task of making masks for my family. I experimented with different patterns and sizes. And I realized that we would never use all the fabric we had for masks for ourselves. There was just so much. Gradually I began forming the idea to make more masks and sell them to raise money for those struggling financially during the pandemic.

My Agricultural Business Management (ABM) advisor was the one who suggested that I crowdfund for the money to buy more materials in order to create masks to donate. I loved that idea. It frustrates me when I see people not wearing masks. It’s such a simple thing to do, and it could save lives. Some people say that wearing a mask somehow dehumanizes people. I disagree, and to prove my point, I set out to make beautiful masks, to make them more than a scrap of cloth. I make each of my masks hoping that it will brighten someone’s day, help them remember what it’s all about–protecting each other. Over the last few months, I’ve really dived into my small charity. I’ve learned a lot about myself (what I’m capable of, how to step out of my box), and I’ve learned a lot about networking. It’s really been a great experience.

How did you become interested in the field of agricultural business management?

I was an exploratory studies student, so I went to a lot of the programs hosted by University College. I went to the CALS fair just to make sure there wasn’t anything there that interested me. I didn’t really think there would be. I hadn’t even heard of ABM until that major fair. I had been considering a business degree, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be part of PCOM. I talked with Robin Clements, who was at the ABM table, and I was really intrigued. I’ve grown up around animals all my life — not a full-fledged farm or anything, but we’ve had dogs and cats my whole life, worked at a horse therapy program and raised a few goats and LOTS of chickens. I was interested in business, but not necessarily cubicles and business suits. ABM seemed like the perfect midground.

Why did you choose CALS and ARE in particular?

Honestly, I chose CALS/ABM because of the people I met in the program while I was still major searching. They were some of the most genuinely welcoming, helpful, dedicated, down-to-earth people I’ve met. I was also drawn to the program by the advisors. They were truly willing to help me find my place. Mrs. Clements even took her own time to help me look for internships, and to work on perfecting my resume. I like the options present in ABM. There are so many paths I could take, and the people are amazing.

How far are you into your college career?

I am currently a first-semester sophomore. I can’t really say I have hard-and-fast plans after graduation at this point, but I do know that I’d like to work a job that allows me the possibility of having a family. I was originally thinking I’d want to go into supply-chain management, but this small taste of entrepreneurship has really gotten me thinking. Who knows? This whole mask-making thing has opened my eyes to the possibilities.