West Virginia State University (WVSU) senior Anna Walker is one of six students nationwide to receive the John Deere Scholarship, announced in January. The award is the first time a WVSU student has received the scholarship.

“This scholarship has already benefited me more than I could’ve ever guessed,” Walker said. “Not only have I gained assistance in paying for the completion of my degree, but it has given me a self-confidence boost and provided me a mentor as well. For all of this, I am forever grateful.”

Walker is referring to George Montgomery, WVSU’s 1890 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) program liaison, who assisted her with the application process and has since become a mentor.

“Mr. Montgomery cleared time to speak with me and took my desire to apply seriously,” Walker said, noting that she learned of the opportunity 10 days before its submission deadline. The requirements included providing a resume and completing an essay prompt about how technological changes benefit farmers and consumers with food security. “We developed an application timeline. I didn’t have a resume, and I had to write the essay, so my heart sank, but it made me that much more determined.”

Montgomery helped Walker stick to deadlines so that he had time to review her packet before submission, an effort that meant a lot to Walker.

“No one in my life had ever taken the time to actually care about my success before,” she said. “His belief in me actually made me believe in myself.”

“I have learned that Ms. Walker is not immune to the issues that plague various communities within West Virginia, nor have they hindered her,” Walker said in a letter to the John Deere team. “In fact, she uses generated academic, professional and life experiences, past and present, to fuel her toward future life success.”

Walker is slated to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in biology and plans to continue her education.

“I’m considering nursing school, pharmacy school or perhaps State’s biotechnology program,” she said. “My dream job is environmental biology. I would love to go out into the field, collect samples and test them in a lab.”

She attributes much of her success to receiving the John Deere Scholarship and the relationship with Montgomery it has allowed her to forge.

“This experience has helped me form a sense of self-worth that I have never had before,” she said. “It will add to the fuel that drives me toward further success in the future.”

John Deere is a manufacturer of agricultural, construction and forestry machinery. The John Deere Scholarship, a partnership with the National Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) Society, is intended to award and financially assist students who are focused on their academics, involved with student organizations and actively philanthropic within their communities.

Walker’s $1,000 award will be recognized at the 32nd MANRRS National Conference in Pittsburgh, March 29-April 1.