DeShawn Blanding: Ready to Lead

DeShawn Blanding, a graduating agribusiness student, is already a national leader.

As Southern region vice president of the National FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) in 2016-17, he traveled the country, visiting FFA chapters, hosting state and local conventions, and meeting FFA members. His election as a national FFA officer made him one of only six African Americans to achieve that distinction, and the first from an HBCU.

When he graduates from the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences this December, Blanding’s long-term plans combine the advanced understanding of agricultural policy, inclusion and equity that these roles have given him with a law degree.

“I want to work with food policy – food deserts, food insecurity, access and availability. Law gives me the opportunity to effect those issues from the community development side,” said Blanding.

To navigate the offices of policymakers and bring about positive community organization, Blanding said, he’ll draw on skills he has learned at N.C. A&T.

“My professors have taught me how to think critically – how to go deeper into the issues,” he said. “For example, to affect food insecurity, I have to know its history. For every food desert, there is the bigger issue of what opportunities lie in that community. That leads to bigger issues still, like education.”

An 1890s USDA scholar, Blanding also served last year as president of A&T’s Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences chapter, working with that organization to create a strategic plan to be more active in the community in partnership with the university Collegiate Farm Bureau.

A&T has helped him not only understand policy, but also gain perspective, he said.

“A&T taught me to see my community from another point of view,” Blanding said. “A&T taught me to be proud of who I am. Being from a small town, and being a young black man, that knowledge is very important to me.”

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