Meet VALLEY’s Fall 2020 Self-Improvement Section Opener: Justin Kurtz

Photo by Cassie Luzenski

We all heard the tale of “The Little Engine That Could” which taught us to be optimistic and persevere through life. Now we introduce you to “The Little Justin That Could,” the life of Justin Kurtz and his triumphs throughout life leaving him to be hopeful and hardworking.

Justin Kurtz, a junior at Penn State, didn’t stray far from home when he decided to study agriculture with a minor in international agriculture. Before moving to State College in eighth grade, Kurtz had known he wanted to attend Penn State following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather.

At just three years old, Kurtz’s life changed in a major way with the passing of his father, leaving him with his tight-knit family including his mom and siblings.

“Statistically, someone who grows up in a household where there isn’t a positive male role model doesn’t usually make it,” Kurtz said. “Because of the people around me, that are constantly helping me and telling me I’m better than the situation, I’ve been able to grow and move forward.”

While at such a young age, Kurtz was exposed to the difficulties most families across the country face, from financial struggles to domestic issues. However, it never ceased to stop him in his tracks and it’s due to his personal hero — his mother.

“My childhood wasn’t this beat, traumatic experience because I learned a lot of different values and that’s mostly because of my mom,” Kurtz said. “That’s what shielded me from these setbacks that were supposed to happen. No matter what the situation was, there was always a smile and you saw it in the way she loves others.”

Throughout his childhood, Kurtz spent most of his life moving back and forth between Pennsylvania and Maryland, putting Kurtz in various social settings from an early age.

“I’m grateful for the fact we moved around because I was constantly having to put myself out there and meet new people to become friends with, and with that I think has really benefited me in the long run,” Kurtz said.

By practicing faith and gratitude, Kurtz has been able to push past the negative and have it work as an antidote in the healing process.

Drawing inspiration from the strength of his mother and her way to love and serve others has led Kurtz to become who he is and directing him on his future path as an aspiring agricultural educator.

“I want to be in a position where I am inspiring people to make legitimate change and progress within agriculture and food, especially food security because it’s a worldwide problem,” Kurtz said.

Within his agricultural major and the Penn State community as a whole, Kurtz has credited his most recent growth to those around him. Throughout his growth, Kurtz never fails to look back at his past experiences as he looks forward to those that await him in his future.

By using all the teachable moments he gained from his mother, Kurtz has shaped his entire way of approaching life to focus on the better, to focus on how to love, and to focus on inspiring and never giving up.

“I live by the saying I made while on a hike — don’t make decisions while walking uphill — because it’s always easy to give up while things are hard,” Kurtz said.

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