By: Mollie Lastovica
For Cory Whitaker, graduation puts him one step closer to his dream of serving others. The May 2013 agricultural leadership and development graduate has been revered as a selfless servant with a heart of gold. And while he plans to pursue a career in agricultural sales, he has long-term goals of doing what he does best, helping others.
“I want to build a good financial backing and then want to open my own horsemanship therapeutic practice specializing in special needs children,” Whitaker said. “I have worked with a similar program back home and with a background of over 10 years spent working with children with special needs, I have fallen in love with them.”
Whitaker’s path to the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications was a bit wayward, but he is confident that his degree will allow him to get where he plans to go in life.
“After choosing this major, I was first planning on transferring out into something more like agricultural economics,” Whitaker said. “But I can tell you now that I have benefitted so much from choosing to stay in this major and it will help me years down the road. I feel that the classes that are provided are set up not only to help a person be an outstanding leader, but also to help those in need.”
He has never been one to run from the opportunity to help the needy. In fact, Whitaker’s devotion to community service throughout his time as an undergraduate student led to his distinction as one of only six recipients of the 2013 Margaret Rudder Service Award.
“It soothes my soul to see someone’s face after I have helped them,” Whitaker said. “It is not the recognition that I commit my service for … I commit my service because I enjoy helping others and seeing the benefits that they receive.”
Whitaker has been involved with Big Event, Vacation Bible Study and Gayle’s Pantry through the First United Methodist Church in Van Alstyne, Texas, and S.E.E.K. Camp. To S.E.E.K. Camp alone, he has committed over 1,500 hours of service.
“S.E.E.K. Camp was established 23 years ago and has served thousands of children with disabilities,” Whitaker said. “It is a non-denominational Christian camp and the all-volunteer staff provides a residential camping experience for those children who otherwise would not be able to attend camp. This camp is not only an unforgettable week of fun and growth for these children, but also it provides a time of respite for the families of each child.”
Whitaker will return to the camp for his twelfth year this summer and his love of service is sure to continue for a lifetime.
“I serve others for them, but I also get so much out of helping them as well,” Whitaker said. “Just the other day I stopped to help a guy who had a flat tire on his bike. I picked him up and took him home. He was so appreciative he could hardly hold back the tears. He touched me without even knowing it and it is moments like that that others need to experience. When they do, they will spread the word and more and more people will continue to do more for people in need.”