Written by Colin Haley
Two summers ago you would have seen agriculture education major Jacob Nester in physical therapy recovering from a work-related accident that resulted in three almost completely severed fingers. Fast forward to December and Jacob is on track to be the first man to earn a college degree in his family.
And he earned a number of scholarships and awards along the way: the A Tab Williams, Jr. Endowed Scholarship; the Winslow Foundation Scholarship; the Altria Award in Ag & Extension Education; and the Roy R. and Alice Barber Bennett Scholarship.
Jacob came to NC State with the hope of providing the same inspiration to his future students as his teachers had done for him while growing up in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Along the way, however, he found himself inspiring more than just future students.
His story, now.
Did you have a role model?
I did have a role model, my 9th-grade agriculture teacher Jesse Ledbetter, and he impacted me so much from being my teacher and FFA advisor. He pushed me to do things that I never thought I would do. For example, he had me participate in the FFA creed competition and I was never one to get up and talk in front of people and if it wasn’t for him pushing me to do that there’s no way I would’ve gone into ag ed. I also had a great professor, Dr. Wendy Warner; every day she would come into class and have a positive attitude, and she did her best to explain different teaching strategies to us and we had opportunities to practice teaching both on campus and in a high school. I think that class really helped prepare me to go into ag ed and also provided me with valuable information.
You’ve overcome obstacles in life, how did you deal with them?
My biggest obstacle would be that two summers ago I was working at Miller Bee Supply to earn money to be able to come to college and my hand got caught in the ripsaw. I lost my middle and almost completely lost my index finger and cut the end of my thumb off. I went through lots of surgery that summer and I went through lots of physical therapy and one struggle that I really had when I came back down here to college is having to relearn how to type. I tried using voice recognition software but that didn’t really work well with my Wilkes County accent so I had to keep trying and trying to teach myself how to type again and eventually was successful. It also changed the way I had to teach things that I used to teach before but even though that was something really bad that happened, it actually helped me during student teaching. I had a boy in my class in a wheelchair but he also bad motor skills and could not work with his hands well. He was having issues cutting things out in class and I could relate to where he was coming from and I went over and talked to him and told him ‘I know it’s really hard but you just gotta keep trying and you can do it.’ I believe through my experiences I was able to relate to that student and make an impact on him in that class as he started to use his hands more and more.
What’s your favorite part about NC State?
One of my favorite things at NC State would be the professors … when I came down here and didn’t know anybody, I would often talk to my professors like Dr. Flowers, Dr. Morgan, Dr. Warren and Dr. Parks. They were almost like my friends too because they always tried to help me if it was about classes or even directions on how to get somewhere … they were really helpful. In class they would help make you be the best ag teacher you could be. And the people I have been around like the professors and my friends are in Ag Ed … it’s a smaller group and I guess you can say it has a family feeling. This may sound a little nerdy, but going to classes is definitely one of my favorite things to do at State too. I really enjoy learning something every day; you could say I am hungry to learn.
How would you take what you learned at NC State and transform a small North Carolina community?
The best way I could answer that would be, to take the knowledge that I’ve gained from NC State to go back and teach the youth in my community that going to a big college is a realistic goal. I feel like they are missing out on a lot of possibilities by staying in their county. Wilkes County is a big agriculture county and I feel like if there was someone there to teach them about the importance of agriculture and what agriculture could do for them, that could inspire some kids to pursue more careers in agriculture and in Wilkes County as well as going to NC State to get a degree in agriculture. The best thing is to go home and make a positive impact on kids.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned at State that you will take away after graduation?
That’s a very tough question, I guess that you always have to be willing to learn. I’ve taken that concept with me through all my years here. You always have to be willing to learn and experience new things and search for new information to help yourself and also help others.
Best thing about CALS, in five words?
Impact – makes an impact on people and benefits the student and people they impact in the future
Teamwork – there’s a big focus on teamwork and how to communicate with others
Community – CALS has a unique community and I think they are closer than lots of other majors
Opportunity – through CALS you have lots of opportunities to grow and learn
Fantastic – I think CALS is a great part of NC State to go into
Any final words?
I am truly blessed to be able to come to a great school and to have so many fantastic opportunities, and I am truly blessed that even after being hurt I was able to overcome that and keep going.