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College of Agriculture

Taylor Lacey

Star Student in Agricultural Education

Taylor Lacey

Most of the time, when stories are written about College of Agriculture students, Taylor Lacey is the one wielding the pen. As the College of Agriculture’s public information intern, Lacey spends the bulk of her working hours interviewing, writing, posting, and sharing about agriculture students’ achievements. She now finds herself on the other side of the story as the College of Agriculture’s 2019 Star Student in Agricultural Education.

Agricultural education instructor Alyssa Schager said Lacey’s prolific work ethic and strong sense of values contributed to her selection as Star Student.

"Taylor is the quintessential ‘go getter.’ She is driven yet compassionate, she has strong self-efficacy yet is humble, and she is high performing yet always willing to mentor and assist others,” Schager said.

Lacey grew up the oldest of three children in a tight-knit family in Oroville. Her parents own a successful welding and fabrication business, but no one in her extended family had attended college, leaving her without a role model or guide to prepare her for college. What she did have was self-proclaimed perfectionism and a competitive streak that drove her to try to outperform her peers in every class activity.

“I remember our timed math tests in elementary school. If I wasn’t the first one done on the test, I would go home and practice, then come back and ask the teacher to test me again,” Lacey said.

As a freshman at Las Plumas High School, Lacey was accidentally placed in an agricultural biology class, and despite begging to switch classes, she was forced to stay. Regardless of her conflicted feelings about raising animals for meat production, Lacey decided to take a hog to the fair her freshman year, vowing to give the pig the best life possible. In the process she fell in love with animal science and gained a new appreciation for agriculture.

Always a shy kid, Lacey tried to blend into the back of the class despite her academic achievements. That all changed when agriculture instructor Andreé Early insisted that she apply for an officer position in her local Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter. Lacey made the team her junior year, found new friendships, developed public speaking skills, and grew a newfound confidence in herself.

During her senior year of high school, Lacey applied and received scholarship offers to attend nine colleges, including the prestigious Bell Family Presidential Scholarship in the College of Agriculture at Chico State. The four-year, $5,000 per year scholarship for top academic leaders in agriculture was a great deal financially, but it interfered with Lacey’s plans to get as far away from home as possible. Then-Interim Dean Dave Daley invited Lacey and her mom to visit the Chico State campus, where he paved a clear path to prepare her for veterinary school and introduced her to other animal science faculty whose passion for applied agricultural research sparked her interests.

“We walked off the campus and I turned to my mom and said ‘This is where I’m meant to be,’” Lacey recalled. “I experienced the comfort and connections I was looking for, and I knew that wasn’t going to happen at a bigger school.”

Initially an animal science major, Lacey added a second major in agricultural education after meeting Schager.

“I want to be the next Alyssa Schager,” Lacey said. “She has such high morals and positive influence on all of her students, and the ways she balances everything is amazing to me.”

Over the course of her college education, Lacey has developed a pretty good balancing act herself. In addition to serving as the College of Agriculture’s public information intern, she maintains up to 25 units per semester, participated in Ag Ambassadors and the University Farm’s Directed Work Experience program her freshman year, competes on the Animal Science Academic Quadrathlon team, represents the University at the California State FFA Convention each year, conducts undergraduate research projects alongside her faculty, and has now taken over leadership of the Silver Dollar Fair Farm Babies Exhibit from her mentor, Schager.

As she nears her final year at Chico State, the question of which of her two majors will most direct her career path is yet to be determined.

“I know I want to teach, but at what level, I’m not sure yet,” Lacey said. “I’m exploring graduate school, and I’m really interested in animal reproduction, embryology, and fetal development. But I also feel really comfortable in high school classrooms and talking with students, so the credential program may still be in my future.”

Lacey’s favorite quote to live by will ultimately guide her decisions. “If you don’t know your purpose, find your passion, and your passion will lead you into your purpose.”

“I just want to look back and be proud of what I did and know that all the hard work was worth it,” she said.