Student Stories: Animal Science major wraps up stellar academic career

Darryl Blakey didn't have the usual doubts freshmen have about choosing a major. For him, agriculture was his first choice -- a dream he has had since high school.

"I graduated from W.B. Saul High School in Philadelphia. It is a public school that fosters interest in agriculture, with fully functional farm facilities on campus," he said.

Back in high school, Blakey never could have imagined where his college years would take him. The May 2015 graduate participated in several extracurricular activities at Penn State, which supplemented the education he gained from his classes. Blakey is the outgoing vice president of the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments, the organization that represents students across 19 Penn State campuses.

"I dealt with student issues affecting all of Penn State's campuses, and the council was responsible for about 30,000 students," he explained.

In addition, Blakey was the president of the Penn State chapter of MANNRS, a nonprofit organization that promotes the study of agricultural and natural-resource sciences among ethnic minorities. He is passionate about efforts to increase diversity within the agriculture industry at large and in the Penn State community, as only 8 percent of students in the College of Agricultural Sciences are members of minority groups.

"Most people would agree that increasing diversity is a goal in the agriculture industry. My question is, 'What can we do to change the statistics?'" he said.

Blakey responded to the challenge and returned to his alma mater, where he introduced high school students to Penn State's agricultural programs -- an effort to make minority students aware of the opportunities in the agriculture industry.

Blakey capped off his achievements with another resume booster: He was selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Diversity Outlook Forum, joining 30 students from around the country at a four-day conference in Washington, D.C. He had the opportunity to talk with the U.S. secretary of agriculture and shook hands with the chief economist of the USDA.

After graduation, Blakey will return to Washington, D.C. to work for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association as a public policy and legislative intern. He will be the first Penn State graduate ever to work for the association, which was established in 1898. He hopes to gain the experience needed to pursue potential graduate school opportunities in agricultural business management, business administration or law.

"I want to work on public policy and legislative issues that are affecting the mainstream agriculture industry," he said. "I want to educate consumers to let them know that our products are safe and up to standards."

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Last Updated May 04, 2015