By COLLIN BROOKS
Cole Tipton won’t be 18 years old until May, but the David Crockett senior seems like he already has the important details of his life figured out.
Tipton simply smiles at the mention of his future, but he knows that he has a long road to travel before he can reach his ultimate goal. Helping him get to that goal will be his acceptance into the Haslam Scholarship Program at the University of Tennessee.
The program is described as “an intimate, four-year enrichment program in which elite students learn from and with one another through a series of integrated, interdisciplinary common seminars and extracurricular experiences, including common study abroad,” according to their website. “The Haslam Scholars Program seeks a group of students who embrace the program’s emphasis on peer learning, make a commitment to its required four-year course of study, and are excited by the numerous possibilities afforded them to contribute significant forms of leadership and service. Prospective Haslam Scholars will combine exceptional scholarly and intellectual merit with evidence of leadership experience and potential.”
Receiving such an honor hasn’t quite hit Tipton yet. “It’s just a real honor and I am shocked about it,” Tipton said. “It is still sinking in.”
But the fact that he was accepted was no surprise to his FFA adviser at David Crockett, Ryan Arnett.
“Cole is the type of guy that he can do anything he wants to do. He is not limited by ability, he is not limited by talent, he is not limited by willingness. If he wants to do it, he can do it, whether that is building rockets or doing horticulture,” Arnett said.
Horticultural hasn’t always been a passion for Tipton. And he admits that it has been a “weird journey” to get to where he is today. That path has been outlined with the help of band.
Coming into high school, he thought music was his passion and he supplemented it with agriculture. Ironically enough, during his freshman year, he took forestry as a class, but four years later he found himself deeper into the agricultural forest.
“Four years later I just kept falling deeper and deeper into the agricultural world and FFA and the agricultural leadership aspect of it,” Tipton said. “I just started to figure out the horticultural and being out there and working with plants.”
He said one of the things that shaped him into his desired future was taking the landscaping career development education class.
“That ties right in with public horticulture and I fell in love with that contest, so doing that contest sort of helped shape my vision,” he said. “That is when I figured out that music was sort of fun for me and that horticulture is my passion.”
Tipton said that UT has one of the best public outreach horticultural programs in the country, especially for his specific interests.
“There isn’t another school that fits the agricultural program that I want to do, with the public horticultural tying into horticultural therapy. ” Tipton said. “They do a lot of public outreach that just teach the way I want to go out and pursue.”
Horticulture has not only become a career path for Tipton, but it is something that he enjoys doing. And it is hard for him to imagine that people aren’t aware how enjoyable it can be.
“I can go outside because I understand what I need to do to have my own vegetable plot, and to think that there are people that don’t understand that and they don’t have that opportunity. It is just kind of a nonexistent thing and it doesn’t come across their mind.”
Helping people that are in areas that are considered food deserts is the goal of Tipton, but it doesn’t just have to be in desert areas to qualify. Metropolitan cities are also considered food deserts and helping people recognize their potential when it comes to growing their own foods is a key objective for Tipton.
“Sometimes they can’t get the proper foods they need, the fresh foods,” Tipton said. “And there is also this agricultural illiteracy, where the kids are out of touch with where their food comes from. I want to help them better understand the process and maybe they will enjoy it as much as me.”
Tipton is one of 15 students from the state that will receive the Haslam Scholar honor.