Kensie Darst’s best advice to high school students gearing up for their first semester of college may be common encouragement, but it’s held true for her – don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.
Darst, from Aurora, Mo., followed her own advice when she made the decision to step foot on the University of Missouri campus this past fall.
“Being from a small, rural community in southwest Missouri, it is difficult for many graduating high school seniors to want to attend a college that seems to host more students than our own town’s population,” Darst said. “Making the decision to attend Mizzou was not easy at first.
“After visiting two other colleges, as well as MU, there was no doubt that I belonged here. From the first steps that I took onto the campus as a junior in high school, the campus welcomed me with open arms and made me feel right at home.”
While Darst said the biggest transition for her from high school to college was finding her place at a major university, she made sure to get involved right away. Darst, an agricultural education major, joined seven campus organizations right away and already holds officer positions in two organizations – Agricultural Education Society chapter secretary and Sigma Alpha Tau class president. She is also a State Vice President for the Missouri FFA Association.
Darst’s active first year ended with a major honor as well – the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) Outstanding Freshman award.
“Once I received the news about being named CAFNR’s Outstanding Freshman, I felt an abundance of emotions, and one of those was thankful,” Darst said. “It was truly exciting to receive the email that informed me of this honor. After reflecting on my first year at Mizzou, I truly dedicated my time to not only my classwork, but to also make a presence within a variety of student organizations. All of the effort and commitment I had dedicated to this first year truly is rewarding after receiving this honor.
“Finding my home with CAFNR is one of the greatest transitions and decisions I have made.”
Darst’s hard work during her freshman year did not go unnoticed by her peers and her professors. John Tummons, an associate professor in the Division of Applied Social Sciences, said Darst’s work ethic and dedication to seeing commitments through to completion are just a few of her strengths.
“Kensie is one of the hardest working students I’ve had the pleasure to advise,” Tummons said in his nomination letter. “Despite her busy schedule serving as a Missouri FFA officer and completing chapter visits in southwest Missouri, she maintains good grades, serves as the secretary of the Agricultural Education Society and works at the 4-H office. Kensie is extremely dependable and mature far beyond her years. I’ve been impressed in her initiative in completing tasks, staying organized and being proactive in her communications with her officers, the membership and me. I attribute much of the Agricultural Education Society’s recent success to her work as secretary and keeping all members informed of upcoming opportunities.”
Darst credits her professors and classmates for helping her step out of her comfort zone as a freshman.
“I am thankful for the professors that I have had thus far, as they are understanding and strive to not only educate their students, but to help them understand and grow,” Darst said. “I appreciate all of the many relationships that I have found with my classmates, as they have played a major role during my college experience. I lean on my classmates during challenging and rewarding times, as I know these are the moments that I will appreciate the most after graduating from Mizzou.”
A passion for FFA helped Darst pick her major before she arrived at MU. Darst is interested in becoming an FFA advisor after she graduates.
“I decided to major in agricultural education due to the influence that my previous FFA advisors have had on my experience within agriculture,” Darst said. “Throughout my years as an FFA member, I have developed a sincere passion for the industry. In my future years as an agricultural educator, I hope to be the teacher who sparks a passion for the students who walk through my classroom door to find their niche within this world.
“I have no preference of a specific region within Missouri where I will find my new career, as long as I pursue my dream of advocating and helping others understand the fundamentals of the agricultural industry.”
Darst has already made many memories during her first year as a CAFNR student. She’s looking forward to continually challenging herself and stepping out of her comfort zone throughout the rest of her collegiate career.
“For only being on campus for two semesters, I have very fond memories that I will never forget,” Darst said. “A few of those memories being CAFNR Week and Mizzou football game days. CAFNR Week was filled with students who tend to have a bone of competitiveness while also enjoying the time we spend together as students. Attending each event with my fellow classmates was very treasured, as this was a time of interaction and bonding with students who I don’t get to see every day on campus.
“Mizzou football game days are a blast! Beforehand, I had never really enjoyed football. I just never understood the plays and the calls. After attending my first college game in person, I became very intrigued. I enjoyed seeing students walk alongside alumni for our appreciation and support of Mizzou. Hearing the roar of Faurot Field as the student section would begin the chant of ‘MIZ’ and the alumni would respond with ‘ZOU’ gave me chills. That is how I knew that I made the right decision to become a Mizzou Tiger.”