It’s not every day a student creates a scholarship fund at College of Western Idaho (CWI). In fact, it has only happened once. Last year, Agriculture Science program student Mitch Coats created a scholarship through the CWI Foundation. Once the donation was made, Coats’ part was done. End of story, right? Well, not exactly. As it turns out, someone who has sat with him in a number of classes is reaping the benefits of his generosity. That student is Stuart Tice.
“I do remember (Mitch) announcing it in a class,” Stuart said. “At the time, it did plant a seed in my mind. I had forgotten about it until my adviser encouraged me to apply for it. Later, when I found out I received it, I just thought Mitch chose me for it.”
That is nothing close to how it happened. The majority of the scholarships at CWI go through the same process. Once a donation is made, it goes into a fund. Students fill out a general application to apply for all scholarships they may be eligible to receive. Applicants are then matched up according to a scholarship’s parameters, and scored by several reviewers at CWI. Students are not identified through the process and donors are not included. In other words, it was entirely random.
While the realization he actually earned the scholarship on his own merits begins to set in, Stuart tells his story. Like many people, his life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Growing up, it was always his dream to join the military, proudly serve his country, and happily retire. After dedicating all four of his high school years to the ROTC program at Boise’s Borah High School and then graduating, he found out his military career was never going to happen.
“My goal was to go to tank school,” he said. “I got to ride in a tanker at an open house event at Gowen Field when I was in ROTC and I absolutely fell in love. When I went to join the U.S. Army, I found out I was medically disqualified. It took me a long time to get over, but I finally made my peace with it.”
Instead, Stuart tried his hand at a variety of other things; truck driving school, emergency medical technician, the tech industry. Nothing ever stuck. He had worked at Hewlett-Packard for more than 10 years when the recession hit in 2008. He was one of the many people who lost their job. It was then he decided to visit his grandfather who owns a farm in Pennsylvania.
“There is one place where I have always felt at home, and that is on the farm,” he said. “It got me thinking, and then it all clicked. If I couldn’t be a farmer, then the next best thing I could be was a helper. The more I thought about it, the more it felt right.”
When Stuart returned home, he connected with a friend who retired from the USDA after a 30-plus year career. It was then he learned all about natural resources, conservation, preservation, helping farmers with non-productive fields, bugs, irrigation issues, etc.
“These are the people who are there to help farmers,” he said, “and I wanted to be one of them.”
Research led him to discover the Agriculture Science program at CWI. For the past two years, Stuart has been steadily working to achieve his academic goals.
“This scholarship is a huge help for me and my family,” he said. “Right now, my only job is to make sure I graduate. This program is tough and requires a lot of work, but I believe it is one of the greatest fields to get into. I found my true calling late, but at least I found it.”
Stuart’s goal is to graduate from CWI next year.