Valeria Cano Camacho, a junior in agronomy,was presented the George Washington Carver Spirit of Innovation and Service Award on Sept. 21 in Ankeny. Cano Camacho was one of five undergraduate students nationwide to receive the award. This is the second year the award was presented as a tribute to the legacy of George Washington Carver, recognizing the efforts of young people striving to achieve their dreams and discovering the relevance in following in the footsteps of Carver — emulating his curiosity about life and nature, his generosity of spirit and his dedication to progress.
Cano Camacho has served on the Dean’s advisory committee, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences strategic planning committee, president of the Iowa State University Minorities in Agriculture and Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) and is an active participant in the Leaders Enhancing Agriculture, Diversity, Inclusion and Trust Collective (LEAD IT).
She also works for Dr. Emily Heaton's biomass project where she's involved in turning Miscanthus (a gigantic grass) into bioenergy.
Cano Camocho says these activities have helped her develop her professional toolbox and communications skills. As an undergraduate research assistant she learned the technical aspects of research as well as the extension and outreach areas. She hopes to leave the world a better place and impact people’s lives by improving agricultural systems, with a focus on developing nations. She is currently exploring the possibility of attending graduate school.
Carver was an internationally known scientist, inventor, artist and musician born into slavery in Missouri near the end of the Civil War. Carver was the first African American student to be admitted to Iowa State University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1894 and his master’s degree in 1896. He was the first African American faculty member at Iowa State. Carver went on to gain an international reputation during a long career at Tuskegee University.
The award is sponsored by the George Washington Carver Birthplace Association, which is a nonprofit cooperating association of the National Park Service at the George Washington Carver National Monument at Diamond, Missouri. The award is presented to students who are first-generation college students; pursuing a scientific degree; doing well academically, involved in research, engaged in arts and the humanities; who demonstrate a determination and perseverance in pursuing their educational and life goals, which includes an awareness of the natural environment.
The four other recipients of the Carver Spirit of Innovation and Service Award included: Daniel Camacho, Simpson College; Aaron Lewis, Lincoln University – Missouri; and Larencia Williams, Tuskegee University. Justyne Crawford who attends North High School, Des Moines received the Carver Rising Leader in Innovation and Service Award.