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A voice for students and agriculture

Eagleville High School senior Garren Hamby serves on the Tennessee Board of Education.
Story by Hannah Lewis 3/17/2021

Each year, the Tennessee Board of Education selects one student to add his or her voice and perspective in education and school policy. This year, that voice belongs to Garren Hamby, a senior at Eagleville School. Garren was hand-picked by Governor Bill Lee from five outstanding students from across the state. 

“It was an honor to be selected for this position,” Garren says. “It has already been an experience I am sure I will remember for the rest of my life.”

The Tennessee Board of Education is composed of one member from each of the nine congressional districts across the state, the executive director of the Tennessee High Education Commission, and one student-member. Each must be selected by the sitting governor and confirmed by the state legislature. Garren received his preliminary nomination from FFA East Tennessee Regional Coordinator, Stena Meadows, on Aug. 11, 2020, and was interviewed for the position the same day. His application was confirmed on Sept. 1, 2020.

“The Tennessee Board of Education is such a high honor because it impacts students across the entire state,” says Garren. “Being part of that select group was humbling to think of the differences that I could make to help students.”

Garren was sworn in on Sept. 24, 2020, and assumed his voting seat for his one-year term for 2020–2021 as part of the 11-person voting board. 

College Grove native, Garren has a passion for farming and agriculture education that runs deep. His parents, Dr. Jaye and Patricia Hamby, were both active in the industry and were FFA State Officers. Jaye is the owner of AgriLearn, and Patricia works with Novel Products, LLC. 

Garren says he “came by his agricultural tendencies honestly.” In fourth grade, he began raising his own sheep and now has a flock of over 30 head and has notched several 4-H and FFA awards during his time in the Rutherford County 4-H program and Eagleville FFA chapter. 

Garren began his FFA career upon attending Eagleville School, and his wide range of involvement has earned him much respect in both youth organizations. He encourages youth to get involved as early as they can.

“Try as many new things as possible and figure out what you like,” advises the 18 -year-old, who also serves as the Middle Tennessee FFA Regional Sentinel. “Once you find it, don’t hesitate to go deep into it. Both 4-H and FFA have certainly been life-changers for me and have helped prepare me for the Board of Education appointment.”

He adds that, so far, he has enjoyed bringing agriculture and rural life issues to light, especially because they are often relevant to modern education. He points to the lack of broadband access in many rural areas as an example.

“It’s important to bring up these issues and get legislation passed that will benefit people in rural areas,” Hamby says. “Things like high-speed broadband are often taken for granted by those who live in urban areas — and therefore overlooked — but they are a big deal for students and farmers in rural places. Simply logging into an online textbook can be difficult, if not impossible, with a slow internet connection. And a row-crop producer may not be able to access a lot of critical technology for his farm without broadband.”

Garren says he enjoys the more technical and educational side of the meetings, three of which he has already attended. 

“I’ve learned a lot already,” he says. “Just being part of the process and understanding what goes on behind the scenes has been an amazing experience.”

Representing students across the state “has been a true highlight” for Garren, who plans to attend Tennessee Tech University to pursue an agriculture business degree. 

“It has certainly been a humbling experience,” he says. “Even though there are a lot of students in agriculture in Tennessee, they are not in the majority, so it’s a privilege to be able to speak for them and make sure their voices are heard.”

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