Jenika Hazelbaker gives to help her other students
While touring K-State as a prospective student, Jenika Hazelbaker was greeted by Dr. Kevin Donnelly, who had just finished a lecture over crop science and was carrying stalks of sorghum. Seeing Dr. Donnelly’s tangible passion for agriculture and commitment to his students, Jenika knew that she wanted to attend a school where people were invested in one another and cared deeply about their work. In that moment, Jenika knew she wanted to be a Wildcat.
Now in her second year as an agronomy and Spanish student, Jenika devotes her time to investing in others — the same reason she was drawn to K-State. As the vice president of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences, Jenika works to encourage students from non-traditional backgrounds to pursue degrees in agriculture. Once doubting that she fit the “typical” definition of an agriculture student, Jenika wants students to know that they have the power to make positive contributions to agriculture.
Jenika also works as the biological science aid for the United States Department of Agriculture where she gets the chance to fight food insecurity. Jenika conducts research that helps scientists find ways to improve crops so that farmers are more successful. As a child, Jenika visited her mother’s native country, the Philippines, and was shocked by the wealth disparity that exists between the U.S. and the Philippines. Seeing farmers face repeated challenges to support their families and find economic security, Jenika was inspired to see how she could improve food security for people around the world and wanted to get a head start on this while at K-State.
“The idea of helping someone have peace of mind pushes me to give my time, energy and money to others,” said Jenika. “I’ve always been very service-oriented, and helping someone be better off financially, mentally or otherwise is one of the most rewarding things I can ever do.”
Jenika is a member of Student Foundation, the student arm of the K-State Foundation, which provides an opportunity for philanthropic leadership. Within Student Foundation, Jenika serves as the chair of campaign marketing for K-State Proud, the university’s largest student-led philanthropy, which raises money for students in financial distress. Inspired by the generosity of the donors who have enabled her K-State education through scholarships, Jenika got involved with K-State Proud so that she can play a role in making sure every student has an opportunity to have a full K-State experience. As the chair of campaign marketing, Jenika creates graphics and puts together marketing pieces to increase awareness for K-State Proud.
In a year that has brought so many challenges, students have looked to Student Opportunity Awards as a way to find financial support. With the Student Opportunity Awards account nearly depleted because of such high demand, Jenika and the K-State Proud team created the first virtual “15k in a Day.” Because of the generosity of alumni, students, faculty and staff, Proud raised $17,238 and was able to keep 17 students on campus.
“Being involved with K-State Proud has enhanced my college experience by showing me just how powerful philanthropy is,” said Jenika. “Philanthropy is important to me because I have personally benefited greatly from it. Without philanthropy, I wouldn’t get the privilege of receiving a high-quality education here at K-State. It’s because of philanthropy that I can pursue my academic and career goals without financial barriers. To pay it forward, I give what I can so that others can hopefully have this opportunity as well.”