One of the goals we have at WAEF is that 100% of our students seeking careers in the tree fruit industry graduate from college with their first career job secured. Specifically, we want them to secure that job at least one month prior to graduation. Helping students build their professional networks is a central strategy to achieving that goal.
Monthly the Yakima Pomological Club holds an evening dinner meeting featuring speakers sharing about important issues facing the industry. We invite our students to attend these meetings with us so they can learn about these important real world topics and meet members of the industry. As you might guess, a mid-week meeting during the school year is frequently difficult for students to make. Each time a student attends though, they comment on how worthwhile it was for them to dedicate the time.
This week WAEF student Miguel Cruz attended the dinner in Yakima. He got to hear from Washington State University assistant professor of tree fruit physiology Lee Kalcits. Dr. Kalcits spoke about effective strategies for controlling bitter pit and sunburn while considering factors such as rootstock choice, irrigation, calcium sprays, nutrient balance, vigor control, netting, evaporative cooling, etc. As Miguel currently works in the industry while attending college, the information was relevant and informative. It also increased his excitement about transferring to WSU in the fall. He is currently completing his associate's degree at Big Bend Community College.
In addition to learning from speakers, students get to
visit with individuals from lots of different companies working in many different areas of the industry. Garrett Bishop (G.S. Long) and Suzanne Bishop (Allan Brothers) have volunteered with many of the WAEF career development activities for students. Miguel got to learn more about their jobs and the types of classes he should consider if he wants to focus on research. From Suzanne, he even got tips on specific WSU professors he should be seeking out when establishing his class schedules.
This was also a time to see former WAEF students now successfully working in the industry. Miguel met WAEF alumni Matt Klaus (G.S. Long) Lauren Gonzalez (G.S. Long) and Curtis Roy (AgroFresh) at this month's meeting.
Miguel received the Tom Mathison Memorial scholarship from WAEF last year. We work with him to disburse the $20,000 award over the duration of his undergraduate years so that it makes the greatest impact when he needs it.
Miguel is a non-traditional WAEF student. He completed his GED at Big Bend Community College in 2016 and then never stopped attending classes and learning. He sees education as his way to achieve his life goals. His hard work and determination pay off. It's not always easy for him, but he attends college full-time, works and maintains a 3.5 GPA.
This fall he will transfer to WSU. He foresees a long career in the industry working in production and research and looks forward to the day he can help students like himself attend college.