For SNA member Beveylon Concha, going back to school at forty years old was an intimidating experience—and a time-consuming one.
“I work a minimum of forty hours a week for Education Service Center Region 20,” explained Beveylon by phone in November. “We provide training and help with compliance for at least sixty school districts; I provide training and technical assistance. We’re pretty spread out; we travel to our entities, and I think our furthest one is close to the Mexican border, about two-and-a-half hours away.”
That forty hour week stretches out longer when you factor in drive time, plus time spent traveling to conferences and her own professional training.
“I’m a 100 percent online student, taking classes at the University of Southern Mississippi. A lot of time I’m taking classes from a hotel room—that happens frequently!”
Working full-time and pursing a master’s degree in nutrition and food systems with an emphasis on child nutrition programs isn’t easy, but her Annual Fund scholarship did help to ease some of the financial burden of attending college. An SNA member since 2011, Beveylon encourages other members to take advantage of all of the resources available to them through their membership.
“I became aware of the scholarships just by checking the website—it’s well-presented. And because I’m a current student, I’m always keeping an eye out for scholarship opportunities. I would also encourage members to visit the website and be aware of the many, many resources available to them there.”
On track to graduate in May 2016, Beveylon is already experiencing benefits from her schooling, and says that her education is enhancing her on-the-job experience now, and vice-versa.
“The material is wonderful, and very relevant to my current job. As I’ve gone through school I’ve learned things that apply to my work; not just the nutrition part, but things like school law as well. I have a better understanding of administrators’ points of view, and often when we’re providing technical assistance to schools we have to help them reach the administrators. So much of what I learn in class applies [to my job]. Learning keeps me motivated in what I do helping schools.”
As she moves forward in her child nutrition education and career, Beveylon sees nutrition education as an important key to unlocking children’s full potential, and hopes to see it take a stronger foothold in schools.
“School nutrition shapes future eating habits, especially in younger children,” she said. “Nutrition education needs to be a part of school, especially in the cafeteria—it is a classroom, and that’s where kids learn. It’s important that child nutrition continues to focus on educating the child, who in turn takes it home and shares it with their family, and potentially changes that family’s eating habits. We can make a difference.”