When Jeremy West was the captain of his high school swim team, he returned from a meet one evening to find a group of kids gathered around his car. They dispersed as he approached, but he saw who they were. They’d trashed his car, denting the hood and smashing eggs against the sides. That hurt him.
After his parents helped him discuss the incident with school leaders, West remembers reflecting, “What’s different about me that I don’t want to do the same to them in return?”
He knew that one of the boys had no parents in his life, only his grandmother. Another’s father had a drinking problem. The third was essentially raising himself.
The contrast between West’s own life, with caring parents, grandparents and siblings, was so great, he recognized that they were acting out the pain of their lives.
“It taught me to have empathy,” he said. “Later, I realized I wanted a career that would let me be there for kids who never learned the life skills to handle their emotions.”
Today, as a student teacher preparing for a career in family and consumer sciences education, West employs empathy every single day.
A full-tuition scholarship, including awards from the Joan E. Gritzmacher Endowed Fund for Family and Consumer Sciences Education Scholarship and the Ronald L. and Sharon Smith Redick Home Economics Graduate Fellowship/Scholarship, made it possible for him to put his vow to work.
“It’s hard sometimes when you feel as if you’ve been talking to a wall,” said West, who had two job offers before graduating. “What makes it worthwhile is when a student says, ‘I respect you because you have so much patience,’ or ‘I talked to my family about this,’ or ‘Will you help me with this life problem?’ It keeps me motivated and showing up every day.”
Scholarships are available to students wishing to become family and consumer sciences teachers, and school districts have multiple job openings. Contact Associate Professor Chris Zirkle, workforce development and education, at firstname.lastname@example.org.