April 1, 2019
Fauquier High sophomore a rural broadband advocate
Virginia FFA President Ethan Jackson, McKenzie Hurley, Ivanka Trump and Fauquier High FFA President Claire Ledbetter at the Farm Bill signing at the White House in December.
File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
McKenzie Hurley of Delaplane speaks during an FFA event last year.
If you live in Warrenton or right in the center of Marshall, you don’t have a huge problem with Internet access. But, once you get out to Hume, Delaplane, Markham and the smaller areas in our county that may go unnoticed, Internet access is a huge problem.
— McKenzie Hurley
At just 16 years old, the Fauquier High School sophomore has spoken at a Microsoft event and attended a presidential Farm Bill signing at the White House.
Those opportunities resulted from McKenzie Hurley’s involvement in Fauquier High’s FFA club, a national youth organization that teaches leadership through agriculture education.
“When I joined FFA in seventh grade and took agriculture in eighth grade, it opened up my eyes to a whole world and how huge agriculture was and how import it is,” McKenzie said.
While attending the National FFA Convention last October, McKenzie met Microsoft Director of Education Policy Allyson Knox in the airport.
Several months later, Ms. Knox invited McKenzie to speak on a youth panel at a Microsoft Airband Initiative event in Washington, D.C., to discuss the importance of broadband Internet in rural areas.
Living in rural Northern Fauquier, McKenzie understands the challenges of a slow Internet connection and sketchy cell service.
“My constant struggle is being able to access the computer to do anything online relating to schoolwork, essays and FFA,” she said.
Five years ago, McKenzie moved from Tallahassee, Fla., to Delaplane with her mom. Just one company offered Internet access to their rural Fauquier County home, but it cost too much.
“I had trouble finding a job in my field and Internet was one of the first things to go,” said her mom, Ginger Hurley, who now works at a state mental health facility in Falls Church.
“In (Marshall) middle school, I would usually go in at 7:30 a.m. to try to get homework done or I’d even go to the library after school,” McKenzie said.
Last year, she and her mom found a more affordable way to get Internet service, purchasing an unlimited cell phone data plan.
McKenzie uses her mobile phone as an “hot spot” for her laptop computer.
“Luckily, I can get some cell signal, but if you drive half a mile away, you get no cell signal,” she said.
“If you live in Warrenton or right in the center of Marshall, you don’t have a huge problem with Internet access,” McKenzie said. “But, once you get out to Hume, Delaplane, Markham and the smaller areas in our county that may go unnoticed, Internet access is a huge problem.”
Her friends in the area also struggle to complete homework because of slow Internet access, McKenzie said.
“I think every person has a right and opportunity to use the Internet,” McKenzie said. “It has truly woven its way into every aspect of our lives through communication, entertainment. It’s really important that people have access to it.”
This year, she chose to participate in FFA prepared public speaking events. Her seven-minute speech focuses on the importance of broadband Internet in rural, agricultural areas.
“Farmers are the backbone of our country,” McKenzie said. “In order for us to help them make products faster and more efficiently, they need to have technological advancements on their farm, but they can’t have those if they don’t have Internet.”
McKenzie recently placed first in prepared public speaking for her agriculture broadband speech at the Northern Piedmont federation event. She will compete April 9 in the Northern area rally at Shenandoah University for the chance to move on to the state speaking contest.
“When I was in middle school, I could never present myself like this. I would always ramble on,” she said. “I developed my public speaking skills when I first did ‘Creed’ (an FFA speaking category). I learned how to properly present myself in a formal manner . . . and communicate effectively with people.”
She plans to present her speech at the Fauquier board of supervisor’s meeting next month.
“You don’t find leadership skills this advanced as a sophomore,” Taylor Richardson, an FHS agriculture teacher and FFA sponsor, said of McKenzie. “We rarely have kids in FFA who come from a farm. A lot of them live in neighborhoods or don’t come from farming backgrounds.”
After she graduates from Fauquier High, McKenzie hopes to go to college and “be an advocate for agriculture. But, I don’t know if I want to go into politics or some kind of work related to agriculture.”
FFA “has led her to the most amazing opportunities,” Ms. Hurley said of her daughter. “She’s very determined and disciplined. She’ll stay in her room and practice for hours,” on speeches.
“She doesn’t get nervous about anything . . . . She’s doing really well and hopefully it will lead to opportunities in college and scholarships,” Ms. Hurley added.
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nonewtaxes · April 2, 2019 at 10:06 am
Great for her. Let all hope it does get the attention it deserves and use it as a learning exercise to distinquish between a right and a wealth tranfer.
As the article stated, broadband is available to nearly everyone in the county. The problem isnt access, it's cost. You're going to pay for it one way or antoher.
Right now the county taxpayers are paying for it. RG on the BOS is leading the charge to subsidize cell towers. Subsidize is wealth transfer.
McKenzie soundslike she puts a lot of time into her school work. How happy she would be to transfer 10 points off her final grade to a clasmate who is failing.
Savefauquiercounty2019 · April 2, 2019 at 4:39 am
Excellent!!! Fauquier County should be very proud to have such an outstanding student. We hope this gets the attention it deserves so everyone has access to the internet and cell phone calls. Amazing how many of us knew about this problem and ignored it. Unsafe for our citizens to have dropped calls.... THANK YOU Miss Hurley. Please stay in Fauquier County after graduation from college. We need young leaders.
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