The different stages of my career have helped me pave my way into Extension. When I made the decision to study agriculture at 17, I had no idea what would be in store for me 10 years down the line. I constantly think about ways in which I can increase my knowledge and be of better service; however, I must not forget the road that led me to a career in Extension in the first place.
My journey began in my hometown Mayagüez, located on the West coast of Puerto Rico. While attending the University of Puerto Rico (UPRM), I worked at the largest agricultural fair on the island, “Cinco Días con Nuestra Tierra” (Five days with our Land). This educational event is completely organized by students of the College of Agricultural Sciences. It brings representation of all the ag-related programs offered in the university. Speakers and local farmers from all over the island have an opportunity to participate, and sell their products. Large groups of students attending elementary, middle and/or high school visit the fair every year. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about agriculture, livestock, beekeeping, landscaping, etc.
At this point in my career, my involvement was very passive, I would say. I mainly helped set up tables, tents and chairs. However, this was a very immersive “out-of-the-classroom” experience that taught me the importance of making positive contributions to our community.
After moving to Florida, I was still committed to the goal of finishing the degree that I started back home. That’s when I became part of the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS) at Florida A&M University, from where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Sciences in 2019. However, before becoming a FAMU alumni, I worked with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service as an entomological technician/biological aid. Here, I began learning about insects, especially the Florida predatory stink bug and white fly. Setting up experiments and collecting data in the lab and field was part of my daily tasks, as well as releasing beneficial insects on a weekly basis on different local vegetable farms. This helped me develop my interpersonal skills and taught me how to make the right connections with people, talk to growers, and the role of extension in the community. During this experience my interest in Entomology and Extension as a possible career paths grew exponentially.
Becoming a Florida Gator
In January 2020, I became a first generation Florida Gator when I joined the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Florida. As an Entomology Research Graduate Assistant working at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC), I spent my days evaluating a novel repellent device for the management of the Asian citrus psyllid in commercial citrus groves. By conducting a series of experiments, I gained knowledge in citrus production and management. While doing my research, I experienced extension first hand from professors and specialists that have guided me throughout my career.
Currently, I take an active part in Extension as the Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent of Highlands County. The road to Extension has brought me all the way from Puerto Rico to Central Florida. I continue to expand my knowledge and overall skills to improve service to the community. By developing diverse educational programs, I can provide the latest science-based information and available resources to the community. I look forward to fostering new professional relationships and contributing to the betterment of common agricultural practices.