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College of Education and Allied Professions

Student receives WRESA Dogwood Trust grant

Daniel Pickens 1

Daniel Pickens (second from left) was recently awarded a Dogwood Trust aspiring educators grant from the Western Region Education Service Alliance.

By Julia Duvall

Sometimes strength is found in the struggle and that is certainly true for Daniel Pickens, a senior in Western Carolina University’s health and physical education program.

Pickens, a Franklin native, was recently awarded a Dogwood Trust aspiring educators grant from the Western Region Education Service Alliance.

“I had a rough time during my first year of college,” Pickens said. “I struggled with keeping myself disciplined with my studies at Southwestern Community College and really had to work my way back to having a grade point average to get accepted to Western.”

Once Pickens applied and was accepted, he knew he needed to change his mindset and work hard to achieve his academic and professional goals.

He decided to revisit his love of football that he had in high school and become a teacher and coach.

“This was a part of my life that I was really missing and coaching was an avenue to get back to that part,” Pickens said. “About a year after I graduated high school, I started helping out with the Franklin High School football team.”

One person that has and continues to be very influential in Pickens’ life is WCU alumnus Josh Brooks, head football coach and curriculum and instructional management coordinator at Franklin High School.

“It is very rewarding to see someone have a passion and goal and then take the necessary steps to achieve that goal,” Brooks said. “Daniel has grown a lot as a young man in the last couple of years. He is coaching at the high school level and attacks his responsibilities with a lot of energy and loves every aspect of coaching football. He had that same type of attitude as a varsity player and wanted to get everything he could out of his short playing career and he did just that. He made a commitment to his academics once he decided to enter the physical education program and has never looked back.”

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Daniel Pickens (left).

Pickens is completing his student teaching at Macon Middle School in Franklin and continues to coach football.

“I am so grateful to coach Josh and coach Jay (Brooks) as well as coach (Fred) Goldsmith, who have been huge influences in my life, not only in football, but in my character development and supporting me to achieve my academic goals at WCU,” Pickens said.

In addition to his focus on coaching and teaching, once Pickens entered the HPE program, he started his health and wellness journey.

“I didn’t want to be the stereotypical out of shape former football player coaching and teaching,” Pickens said. “I wanted to be a good example for my students to be healthy, mentally and physically.”

Pickens credits his professors in the HPE program, particularly program director Tom Watterson and Keith West for their guidance and support while he has been pursuing his goals.

With all the hard work he was putting in on the field and in the classroom, Pickens was encouraged by Macon Middle School administration to apply for the WRESA Dogwood Trust grant award.

“I applied for the grant, thinking there was no way I would get it, but then got the email that I had been chosen,” Pickens said. “It was a great culmination of the hard work I have and continue to put in each day.”

The Dogwood Trust grant includes $1,500 tuition assistance, $500 student teaching expense support and four free professional development sessions through WRESA.

“This journey has really been full circle for me,” Pickens said. “My hope is that I can be an inspiration to my students and be there to help the next kid in line.”

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