College of Agriculture

Damian Arceo

Agricultural Education

When choosing a degree path and prospective career, past experiences play a crucial role in guiding students to their future. For senior agricultural education major Damian Arceo, it wasn’t until during an interview for State FFA Office that his future became clear.

Student standing in green pasture. With acceptance to Chico State for agricultural education and CSU, Monterey Bay for Marine Science the senior was torn with choosing his career path. Positive experiences in the FFA through leadership positions, public speaking, and raising breeding and market rabbits, gave Arceo transferrable skills and a new sense of confidence that he felt compelled to share with others. Working his way up through leadership roles in the organization, Arceo found himself in the running for the California State FFA Officer Team in late April of his senior year.

“Going into State Conference, I still hadn’t made a decision and needed time to reflect. During one of my interviews with the [State Officer Nominating Committee], there was a moment while I was talking that it all became clear and I decided that I was meant to choose ag,” he said. “I had only been at Chico State for the FFA Field Day and the State Officer Candidate Training, with no formal tours but meeting Dr. (Brad) Dodson and Dr. (Mollie) Aschenbrener, I knew it was where I belonged.”

Although Arceo was not elected into State FFA Office, his time of reflection during the election process is what ultimately made his decision to attend Chico State in fall 2016, however it was his high school experiences that built the foundation.

“I joined the FFA in the 8th grade after a counselor placed me in an ag class. I didn’t realize it at first, but I started to find myself in leadership roles and competing in [career development events] while taking AP classes,” Arceo said.

During his experiences in the FFA his agriculture, teachers Shanan Spears and Charles Van Riper became mentors that guided his life with purpose.

“I really looked up to them, and they helped me when I had no direction or value in myself,” he said. “They showed me what a teacher can do for their students, and that’s exactly what I hope to do.”

During his time at Chico State, Arceo has maintained a part-time job at Chico Florist for four years while facilitating Greenhand Leadership Conferences, Summer Orientations, and serving as a laboratory mentor for students in “Introduction to Plant Science” (PSSC 101).

Through his classes, Arceo gained facilitation techniques for his future high school classroom as well as new perspectives to carry forward. Specifically, he credits the “Agricultural Leadership” course (AGRI 380B) and “Computer Skills” course (ABUS 231) with providing meaningful experiences.

The senior’s favorite memory at Chico State however, happened in front of the classroom upon finishing his first full lesson in the agricultural mechanics shop.

“I was so nervous and unsure, but when I finished I had a new sense of accomplishment and thought, ‘Here I am now. Excelling,’” he said.

Outside of his coursework, Arceo was involved with the Legislative Affairs Committee for Associated Students as vice chair, the student representative for the Graduation Initiative, and Summer Orientation, where he says he became his “most true Chico State Wildcat.” He also travelled to Puerto Rico on a pilot trip, where students had the opportunity to experience agriculture outside of California and connect with the rich culture of the island.

When he’s not working or involved with his roles on campus as a student and leader, Arceo enjoys the nature in Chico. In fact, he enjoys it so much he’s brought it into his own house with over two-hundred houseplants where he can relate everything he learns to real-life experiences.

Upon graduation this spring, Arceo has accepted admission to the UC Davis Credential Program where he will obtain his teaching credential and master’s degree in agricultural education.

“Getting closer to home and my support system with this program was the right decision for me,” Arceo said. “It’ll be a big change from being in Chico, but I’m excited to get started.”

Ultimately, Arceo sees himself teaching somewhere in northern California with a diverse population of students.

“Teaching freshman, you have a unique opportunity to pull them into agriculture, and I hope I get that opportunity,” he said. “I want to be a teacher that gives students the opportunity to succeed. I had teachers that supported me and helped me get to this point, and I hope to share that with my students as well.”

For incoming students, Arceo advises students to follow Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Arceo said, “In order to flourish, you need to find a sense of safety and security and there are so many resources at Chico State to help you find that. That’s what I was able to do and I’m grateful for the experiences I was given.”