My AEC Story: Bella Damiani
As a young girl, Bella Damiani grew up in a small beach-town suburb with her family, largely unaware of how the agriculture industry was so rooted in her life. It wasn’t until one of her high school teachers pushed her into research with hydroponics that she uncovered her passion for plants.
Bella earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, studying horticulture. She spent much of her undergraduate career bouncing between a lab where she conducted research on maize and student organizations such as MOR Meditation Club at UF, Gator Gardening Club, and the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Club.
As Bella was beginning to wrap up her undergraduate career, she found herself drawn to being an educator. Yet, finding a job as a teacher with a horticulture degree was going to be a bit difficult. That is when Bella discovered the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication and turned her sights on a master’s degree, specializing in agricultural education.
“Through this program I am learning how important agriculture education is,” she said. “Educators are so important, and teachers are struggling personally.”
Recognizing that she comes from a unique background, Bella decided to conduct her master’s research project on the resilience of first-year agriculture teachers in Florida. She is on the path to become a licensed teacher, but Bella is still deciding if her career path will end in a classroom.
“I felt very much like an outcast when I first joined AEC,” Bella said. “I found it hard to relate to others that grew up in agriculture.” As time went on, Bella found that studying resilience of educators is helping her relate to others and find her place.
“Everyone is resilient. Everyone has power. Everyone is strong. I feel like I have a gift that I can help people find that power and that strength and allow them to feel comfortable and love themselves.”
Bella is excited to begin student teaching next spring, especially for the horticulture program with which she has been paired. She is still trying to find her place where agriculture and education intersect, but she has a clearer picture now than she did before.
“It may not be suitable for me to be an agriculture teacher,” she said. “But, I think my work with resiliency can help other agriculture teachers, and that may be my place.”