By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Thanks to the example of Karen Hamilton, his ag education teacher at Riverview High, and with the $500 KellyAnn Nobles scholarship he received from Hillsborough County CattleWomen, Sean Falvey said he is determined to major in agriculture education and communication at the University of Florida after a two-year stint at Hillsborough Community College.
“Miss Hamilton, 100 percent,” said Falvey, 17, about the woman who influenced his decision to become an ag teacher.
“Whenever I go to ask her a question, she has a solution. She’s always there to help me and has 100 percent helped me be a leader through FFA and 4-H.”
Falvey received his framed scholarship award certificate at the Hillsborough County Fair this month. A second $500 scholarship was presented to Logan Shoop, who could not attend the Nov. 5 announcement, during a break at the Justin Shawn Gill Memorial Livestock Show.
The show is named for the son of Anthony and Debbie Gill, of Lithia, who own the Lonesome G Ranch in Fort Lonesome. Justin, a 17-year-old student at Durant High in Plant City, died May 12, 2004 in an accident on Fort Lonesome Road. The Gills for years have supported youth programs and scholarships, both before and in memory of their son.
Debbie Gill, likewise, for years has been active with Hillsborough County CattleWomen, which has a long-standing scholarship program. In 2011 the scholarship was renamed posthumously for Nobles, one of their own.
According to CattleWomen representatives, Nobles died March 11, 2010, after an accident with a drunken driver, moments after leaving the Florida Strawberry Festival. She had been working to help the organization run a livestock show.
“Her favorite time of year was fall, and you could tell it in her home,” her obituary reads, noting Nobles’ extreme “craftie” talents. An accomplished hunter who “could definitely hold her own in the woods,” her “constant vigil was the love, education and future of her children.”
Sean Falvey’s mother, Ashley, said she benefited from Nobles’ kind heart and parenting skills, which makes her son’s scholarship award even that more meaningful.
“Oh my gosh, the scholarship was an incredible honor because Kelly was such a kindhearted soul, and I believe she would be excited to know that somebody who grew up near her, that she knew, actually won a scholarship in her name,” Ashley Falvey said. “When I was a new mom, Kelly helped me out a lot. If I was stressed out, like, ‘Oh, how do you do it?’ Kelly was always so kind, and very willing to share her experiences with her own kids.”
That was back when the Falvey family lived in Wimuama, and Sean Falvey was a child gaining hands-on experience in agriculture from his grandfather, Robert “Bob” Falvey, who runs The Round Pen in Wimauma, specializing in custom horse saddles and halters.
“My grandfather raised beef cattle,” Sean Falvey said, “and after a while I started showing cutting horses.”
Fast forward to his sophomore year at Riverview High, where Falvey joined the school’s FFA club and a year later started showing poultry and, now, steer as well. “I started in FFA and this is my third year in FFA and second year in 4-H,” said Falvey, who serves in club leadership positions, as 4th county council president and District 9 council president, covering a territory that encompasses Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Leadership experience and career growth is what hooked Falvey to FFA and 4-H, where he discovered “agriculture is something I know and can teach to somebody else,” Falvey said. “Learning to grow your own food and about where your food comes from is important. Because without agriculture, you’d be naked and hungry. That’s what Miss Hamilton would say.”
Ashley Falvey said it’s inspiring to see her son “come into his own” and “find a passion for the animals he works with.
Laudable as well, she said, is to watch him mentor younger kids.
“He has a little brother who is 13, and Sean really tries to be patient and teach his brother how to work with different animals,” Ashley Falvey said. “Sean will take him along to show him different things and to explain to him why something is important. Not just like quick, hey, this is what you have to do. Sean is a patient teacher.”
Had that always been his plans, to become a teacher?
“Gosh, no,” his mother said. “The plan was, he was going to be a fish and wildlife officer. Over the past year he’s really talked more about being a teacher. Through 4-H and watching him mentor the younger kids in the fall, I see it, that he has the drive and the passion and the ability to teach.”
Indeed, Falvey said, the value of 4-H and FFA supplements and/or transcends traditional classroom learning.
“These kids who are involved in FFA and 4-H, they’re learning public speaking, how to plan meetings, how to run meetings, how to take minutes, the value of keeping books, how to be true entrepreneurs and getting exposure to different stakeholders in the community,” Ashley Falvey said.
In short, Falvey said, they’re working together, learning true life skills.”