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Actor Kevin Conroy once said: “Everyone is handed adversity in life. No one’s journey is easy. It’s how they handle it that makes them unique.” If that’s the case, Eastern Kentucky University senior Shawn Dore is unlike any other. From the throes of chronic illness to the harsh realities of poverty, Dore is no alien to adversity but, more importantly, no stranger to the strength and courage that comes with facing it head on.

Shuffled between his sometimes estranged parents, Dore spent his early years constantly on the move. He bounced between five elementary schools, while his family often struggled to put food on the table. After years of uncertainty, the precarious family fell apart when Dore was in fourth grade. To keep Dore and his siblings out of foster care, various family members volunteered to take in the children. Dore’s brothers went to live with an aunt, while Dore found refuge with his grandparents in Richmond.

While his grandparents offered emotional support, they spent much of their time working. The transition was unusual for Dore, who was accustomed to never being alone, as he spent much of his childhood working and caring for his young brothers. He soon asked if he could move to Lexington with another aunt for company.

It was there he found a beacon of hope in the FFA program at Locust Trace AgriScience Farm. “Without that FFA program, I don’t think I would be where I am today,” Dore proudly explained.

Dore recalled having an interest in agriculture from a young age when the family moved to a farm in Brodhead, Kentucky. He spent a lot of time working with the farmer, soaking up knowledge about livestock and planting patterns. “Sometimes, when things weren’t so bad at home, we would go on these long drives through the country. Just looking at all of that farmland made me feel right at home.”

Despite that interest, Dore doesn’t believe he would have pursued a career in agriculture if it weren’t for FFA. “A lot of people told me I was going to end up just like my parents, but FFA taught me that didn’t have to be true.” On his 18th birthday, Dore moved out of his aunt’s home and in with a family friend. To support himself, he began working 35 hours a week, while balancing FFA and his classes at Henry Clay High School.

His grandmother urged him to go to college, to rise above the low expectations people had wrongly set for him. Dore marveled at the prospect of college, but wasn’t sure that it would ever be a reality for him. “Education was always important to me, but with everything going on, I just couldn’t make it my number one priority,” he explained. “But I always knew that if things were going to get better, I need to get an education. I was willing to do anything to give my future family a better life than the one I had.”

Ultimately, Dore took his grandmother’s advice, choosing EKU for its proximity to his grandparents, and for the close-knit community the University provided.

 “I just really love the atmosphere here,” said Dore. “All the professors, especially in the ag department, just really seem to care about their students.”

 He especially commended Dr. Mike Dean McDermott, Carla Hagan, and Dr. Andrea Sexton, associate professors in the Department of Agriculture. “They’re just amazing listeners,” Dore reflected. “Anytime I need anything I know I can go to them. They’re like parents to us.”

As wonderful as the past few years have been, Dore is even more excited for the future. In seven short months, he will graduate with an associate’s degree in livestock management and a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness management. While he hopes to work mainly as an agricultural loans officer, he also wants to have his own farm as a side business, and more importantly, raise a loving family.

He knows, of course, that there will still be difficulties, especially from his battles with Crohn’s Disease, a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the lining of the digestive tract. Dore was diagnosed with Crohn’s on June 5, 2010, and underwent three surgeries by November of the same year. He still finds himself regularly missing class and work due to flare-ups, but ultimately uses his condition as motivation. “Crohn’s is expensive, which means I need to be able to provide for myself,” he said. “Whenever I feel like quitting, I just remind myself of that.”

As he reflected on the many trials he has faced over the last two decades, and the ones he is sure to face in the future, Dore had one piece of advice for students who may find themselves in a similar position. “People will try to tell you that you are who you are, and that you can’t change that, but you can. You can be whoever you want, even if it seems scary. Work hard, ask for help, and keep going.” 

— by Yasmin White, Student Writer, EKU Communications and Brand Management