After working with many different agricultural educators across the state of Illinois as an Illinois FFA State Officer, Clayton was able to see firsthand the impact Ag Educators have on their students. “The inspiration teachers provide along with the knowledge they instill into a growing student will be with them for the rest of their lives. I want to be one of those influences in the many lives that may create the newest crop genetics, the newest leadership model, or the best business practice to provide food, fuel, and fiber for our world’s growing population. As an ag educator, I want to change the mentalities of many towards our rich and vibrant industry.”
Clayton grew up on a family row crop farm in central Illinois. As a very active FFA member, he held numerous leadership positions at the chapter, section, and state levels. The summer before his eighth grade year, he started his own sweet corn business, The Sweet Corn Shack. This Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE) program helped him earn enough money to buy a car and pay his way through college. “[My SAE business] taught me many things, from customer service, public speaking, and business management, to working with my employees and developing sales skills.” The impact and success of his business helped lead him to the decision to pursue a double major in Agricultural Education & Crop Sciences with minors in Chemistry and Business.
Clayton chose to attend the University of Illinois because he felt it provided many opportunities that he may not have been able to grasp at other institutions. “At the U of I, I am able to further develop effective leadership skills to implement into Agricultural Education. The diversity of the staff and rich learning environments show just how much the Ag Ed department cares. They are always willing to answer any questions and help where needed.”
His advice to other students is to learn everything you can and take advantage of the endless opportunities presented at the University of Illinois. “As one of the nation’s renowned educational institutes, the wealth of knowledge harbored at the U of I is immeasurable! Take the opportunity to learn from those around you and do not be afraid to experience the many different cultures on campus. While education is the primary objective, be sure to stay active in clubs and student organizations as well.” He feels active involvement will create educational moments and provide connections that will last a lifetime!
Clayton earned two Bachelor of Science degrees from the University of Illinois -- one in Crop Sciences Plant Biotechnology and the second in Agricultural Leadership and Science Education. Clayton's international experiences include travels to China, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Italy, Spain, France, and England! As an AgriCorps Fellow, he is currently sharing his passion for agriculture with youth in Ghana, Africa!