HireSmart Supports Top FFA Ag Communications Team in the U.S. 

Katie Carrouth and her teammates, Abbi Adams, Anna Moon, and Anna Kate Mathis, laugh at the video of their surprised faces when they learned that, "Yes!" they're the best in the nation. 

The Madison County FFA Ag Communications team earned first in the U.S. at the 96th Annual National FFA Convention and Expo.  

"All of us were so shocked, and since then, we've all re-watched the clip so many times, just laughing at our own expressions," said Carrouth. "It was super sweet to have that moment filmed so we can all remember it." 

Adams, who placed sixth overall in the individual competition, said the moment was intense. 

"To me, it felt we were the only people in the room," she said. "All of my senses were both heightened and subdued at the exact same moment. It was a feeling I had never felt before. When they announced the second-place team and we realized we had won, I remember a feeling of shock. It wasn't until we left the stage that my sobs began, and I realized my hands were numb from stress." 

The quartet got a boost from HireSmart Cares, a nonprofit focused on helping youth develop job skills, which provided grants for Madison County FFA members, including the ag communications team, to cover costs associated with the trip. 

A call to action: HireSmart Cares aims to help youth realize their potential    

A primary focus of HireSmart is encouraging youth involvement in agriculture, which involves spreading the word about career options and the relevance of ag in so many aspects of life. 

That's also the focus of ag communications teams — providing the public with a greater understanding of agriculture. 

Adams, a student at Wesleyan College majoring in English education and minoring in communications, said the importance of ag communications often goes overlooked. 

"Without agricultural communications, nobody would know anything relating to the agriculture industry," she said. "'Ag Comm' hopes to create advocacy and transparency. It is important for the future of the agriculture industry as it will help connect consumers to farms and major corporations." 

Carrouth, a singer/songwriter and music producer getting a Bachelor of Arts in Music at Georgia College and State University, said the agricultural communications focus in high school "allowed me to branch out and try more things that challenged me which has helped tremendously at college." 

HireSmart U.S. Agricultural Assistance — Kaylee's Story 

She wasn't raised on a farm, "so I always felt a bit left out of that sector," but she has relatives and peers in agriculture. 

"I saw the need for bridging the gap between non-traditional and traditional agriculturalists through activities of the FFA such as the agricultural communications CDE," said Carrouth.  

  

She added that reaching consumers to educate them about agriculture is "one of the most important things for the agriculture industry to focus on." 

Adams and Carrouth said the team's first-place finish in the U.S. was a byproduct of the companionship they felt as they worked toward a shared goal. 

"The four-person team dynamic is really special because it allows four separate approaches to creativity to be combined into one cohesive project," said Carrouth. "This competition is a lot of work and has many parts to complete, so having a team like ours is super important. As far as taking first place, I feel that it comes down to our passion for it. We all wanted to do well, so we put every ounce of effort we could into it. We are also very good friends, so teamwork skills came naturally." 

HireSmart Filipino Scholarships: Shannen's Story 

Adams said the "contest brought us closer than we ever imagined." 

"While we worked through every step of the way, we understand each other as well as the vision we hoped to create," she said. "We practiced compassion while simultaneously holding each other accountable… We wanted to keep practicing and tweaking the fine details because we wanted to be the best, and we didn't quite know what that meant at a national level. We all care about this contest so incredibly much. We didn't only want to win for ourselves; we wanted to win for each other." 

HireSmart Cares U.S. Career Assistance — Construction Class Story 

HireSmart Cares applauds the FFA team for their commitment to each other and their hard work toward a shared goal. If you have a workforce development idea and would like to share it with us, email info@hiresmartcares.org. To contribute to our efforts to help today's youth be tomorrow's leaders, click here

Ava Willoughby recently got a taste of being a veterinarian when she had to care for her sick goat, Lupe, through the night. 

“We had to give her medicine throughout the night, every four hours,” said the eighth grader, who watched Lupe recover and regain her appetite. 

Ava loves the feeling of helping animals and plans to make that her career. 

“I like being around animals, and I feel like that’s what makes me happy,” she said of her desire to be a veterinarian for both big and small animals. 

HireSmart Cares wants Ava to thrive in that role. So HireSmart steps in with support for Ava and many other youth aiming to gain skills now for a brighter tomorrow. 

For instance, the nonprofit is covering the cost of an ag barn expansion in Madison County, Georgia so kids who don’t live on a farm can learn to care for livestock. HireSmart also funds ag-related scholarships and a variety of grants for youth interested in ag careers. 

Ava was able to travel to Indianapolis, Indiana, for the National FFA Convention in October with financial assistance from HireSmart for lodging, travel, and fees. 

She said she enjoyed the trip and had a chance to hear from a variety of people about their agricultural backgrounds. 

“It was fun, definitely really cold,” said Ava about the convention. “We had a lot of entertainment. We went to the zoo and then we had our sessions where we went and listened to people talk about their experiences.” 

The daughter of Josh and Brandi and the third of four children is in her first year showing goats with FFA. Ava has two goats, Peaches and Lupe, and will soon add a third, Ginga. 

“A few of my friends show, and I thought it would be really fun, and since goats aren’t the hardest to show for your first year,” she said. “The cows take a lot of work, probably double the time you spend with a goat.” 

Still, Ava said she will probably show cows during high school. 

“I’ve thought about having a cow,” she said. “I don’t feel like I want to do it right now, but I definitely want to when I’m in high school.” 

Ava participates on the middle school livestock judging team, learning to perform market evaluations. 

“If you’re judging your market animals for the meat, you want them to be bigger, and you don’t want them to be fat,” she said. “You want them to be bigger and muscular. And then for the breeding, you want them to have a good structure so they can hold up when carrying (offspring).” 

She’s also a middle school FFA officer this year, serving as the parliamentarian. 

“We’ll do a slideshow of how agriculture relates to what we’re talking about in that meeting,” said Ava. “The last meeting we did basketball. We stayed for the middle school basketball game, and I did a slideshow over how that related to agriculture.” 

She talked with fellow FFA members about how the basketball flooring is hardwood, the ball is made from cowhide, and the first-ever basketball goals were peach baskets. 

Ava smiles when talking about animals, including her dogs, Ivy and Banjo, and she’s looking forward to a future looking out for all creatures big and small as a veterinarian. 

HireSmart aims to help Ava and her peers take those steps to success, making the future brighter for all. 

Ava’s mom, Brandi, said she’s grateful for the support. 

“Being able to attend the National FFA Convention was definitely a privilege, said Brandi. “Ava was able to gain a larger perspective of the FFA organization and the opportunities it can provide. We are grateful that HireSmart Cares was willing to help provide Ava with an opportunity to expand her knowledge and build upon her success with FFA and her future endeavors.” 

If you’re interested in helping HireSmart support youth like Ava through a wide variety of workforce development initiatives, click here to contribute. 

Humans need four walls and a roof, food, running water, electricity, and furniture. 

Each generation must meet the hands-on demands of supplying such things, and HireSmart Cares wants today’s kids to have the tools and teaching they need to be self-sufficient in meeting society’s basic needs in the future. 

That’s why HireSmart funds U.S. agricultural initiatives, helping the next wave of farmers who will put food on our plates with scholarships, grants, program funding, and more. 

HireSmart also supports U.S. workforce development in the same way: putting quality boots on the feet of high school graduates entering the workforce, providing scholarships for students going into trades programs, backing young entrepreneurs with seed money for their business plans, and more. It’s all part of the “leave-it-better-than-you-found-it” approach to the world that underpins HireSmart’s core values. 

The nonprofit also supports local construction teachers with funding to supplement their classes with construction materials, tools, and funding for travel so students can broaden their perspectives on their options. 

A call to action: HireSmart Cares aims to help youth realize their potential  

Madison County High School construction teacher Zach Carithers and Jackson County College & Career Center construction teacher Cody Dyer were both presented with $2,000 checks from HireSmart to help their students this school year. 

Students in Carithers’ and Dyer’s classes participate in Skills USA competitions, where they get a chance to shine, show what they’ve learned in construction class, and gain confidence that they can venture into adulthood with solid, hands-on skills, such as plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, welding, and more.  

Both teachers expressed gratitude to HireSmart for the grants they're using to cover membership costs, entry fees, and lodging for students participating in regional, state, and national Skills USA competitions. 

Some students come from tough situations, and the skills they learn can be a ticket out of financial hardship. The boost from HireSmart helps such kids make that connection between learning and living a good life. Dyer recalled one financially challenged student walking to the school in the early morning darkness to meet the group that assembled pre-dawn for a Skills USA event. Dyer was struck by his commitment to be a part of the program, even without transportation.  

“He was the first kid there; he was waiting on us when we got there,” he said.  

Dyer said there’s a mix of talent levels in his classes.  

“You have a wide range, and we have some kids who never use a hammer and some kids who have used power tools on their dad’s farm for forever,” he said.  

Construction is taught in three levels, with students learning the basics in “Construction 1." 

Carithers said he holds “Math Mondays” with beginning students, who learn about measuring principles and see how math is fundamental to all building. Students also use hand tools to build birdhouses.  

“Now we’re doing power tools,” he said. “They (the students) had 1’-by-1’ sheets of plywood, and they cut them into a jigsaw puzzle.”  

Carithers said his intermediate students are working on home construction.  

“We built mini houses, 4’-by-3’ tall walls on a platform floor and then gable roofs,” he said. “But I gave each one of them a pitch, so they all had to figure out the pitch of the roof to figure out how to cut the rafters.”  

He said his “Construction 3” class works on more challenging projects.  

“We’re going to build three 8-foot walls, one with a door, one with a window, and one with a partition,” said Carithers. “And then we’re going to sheath one of them- can’t afford to sheath them all- and put siding on that one wall and shingles on that one part.”  

The construction teacher said his class is working with Madison County’s JROTC program to put up a 14’-by-14’ foot shed for the JROTC.  

“We’ll put the footings in, build the flooring, put walls up, tin the roof, everything,” he said. “So that’s a huge opportunity. Our kids get to practice. It will take us two weeks.”  

Dyer said he loves seeing students have fun in his class and learn new skills.  

“We worked with a table saw today, and we’re going to build a star,” said Dyer. “We’ll take a miter saw and cut it at certain angles, then put it together, and it makes a star. It’s pretty cool. You can hang it on the wall.”  

Carithers and Dyer envision their students taking their skills beyond high school toward productive lives, providing four walls and a roof, food, running water, electricity, and furniture for themselves, their loved ones, and our society. HireSmart Cares pictures this, too, and is dedicated to helping kids help themselves, hoping those students will also strive to leave the world better than they found it.  

If you have an idea about how HireSmart Cares can support the next generation, email us at info@hiresmartcares.com. See more about us at hiresmartcares.org.  

Jonalyn was in a terrible position. Should she use limited family funds to pay for a quality education for her daughter this year or allocate that money to her special needs son, who needs speech therapy?



Thanks to HireSmart, Jonalyn doesn't have to make that tough choice. She now has the money to do both after receiving an education scholarship for her 5-year-old daughter, Marciella Audrey.



"When I received the news that I was one of the people that got picked (for the scholarship), I cried," she said. "I literally cried. I cried my heart out. I was so thankful."



Jonalyn and her husband, Christopher, have a 9-year-old son who has been diagnosed with "echolalia," which is the non-voluntary repetition of another individual's speech. She said therapy has helped him communicate with the family at a basic level.



"He's doing speech therapy, and if we don't do that, we have a hard time communicating with him," she said. "But since we started doing that, he improved a lot."



Jonalyn sees the therapy as essential, but she also wants her daughter to get a strong start on her educational journey, and she says enrolling her in a quality school is a must.



"I don't want to choose between what our special needs kid needs and what our daughter needs," she said.



Jonalyn has been employed by HireSmart Virtual Employees for four years, serving a property management company in the U.S., primarily handling lease renewals.



She applied for one of 20 scholarships HireSmart Virtual Employees offered this year to the children of its employees through its nonprofit arm, HireSmart Cares. HireSmart is the leader in the virtual employment market in looking out for its staff, offering good wages, health and dental insurance, quality training and support, leadership courses, and educational scholarships for the children of its employees.



"What HireSmart has been doing helping kids, that's different," said Jonalyn. "I've never heard of a company that does that, you know."



Jonalyn smiles, talking about Marciella Audrey. She says her child is energetic and loves to dance and draw. Jonalyn is a singer and used to perform mellow love tunes with a band but now enjoys the occasional karaoke party.



"I kind of want her (Marciella Audrey) to try singing as well," she said.



Jonalyn says her daughter is young and is not fully aware yet of her brother's challenges, but she said understanding will come with time.



"We kind of just tell her that your big brother doesn't understand the way you understand, and he's going to a different school than you," she said. "She says, 'OK.' But you know, she's 5. She'll understand that later on with guidance."



Jonalyn said she is elated to give both children what they need, and she voiced gratitude to HireSmart CEO Anne Lackey.



"It is an honor to have been chosen as a recipient, and I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity given," she said. "This program will make a tremendous difference in our kids' lives."

"An answered prayer" — that's how Ina describes the educational scholarship for her son through her employer, HireSmart Virtual Employees.



Ina, an employee of HireSmart since May 2022, and her husband, Mark, have two young boys, Isaiah Ambert, "Ice," 4, and Ishaan Amani, "Amani," 2.



Ina applied for an educational scholarship for her son, "Ice," through HireSmart so that he could attend a local Kumon school, which specializes in teaching reading and math to young children. HireSmart CEO Anne Lackey informed Ina that her family received one of 19 HireSmart scholarships this school year.



"I was so thankful, she said. "I felt so blessed in that moment when Anne confirmed that I got the scholarship. I was actually thanking God for it because I prayed for it. My husband and I both prayed for it (the scholarship)."



Ina shed tears when talking about receiving the scholarship, noting that her family could not enroll Ice in Kumon without financial assistance. She said giving her kids the best education possible is a priority for the family.



"If not for the scholarship, we wouldn't be able to have our child enrolled in the school," she said. "So it's really a great help for us. We can see how our kid is developing and see how much he has learned."



Ina said Ice is an inquisitive, confident, and empathetic boy who loves watching "Blippi," learning about animals, and is fascinated with excavators, garbage trucks, and other big machinery.



"He's also a part of our church choir, so he loves to sing," she said, adding that he always asks questions about whatever he sees and hears.



Ina and her family attend church on Sundays and spend time doing fun activities on Saturdays.



"We go out or play in indoor playgrounds," she said. "We also love swimming, so we go to beaches whenever there's a time."



Ina said her son enjoys attending school and asks about it when he's not there.



"They (Kumon) are teaching the kids to have independence when it comes to learning to study at home," she said. "I would say that it's really true because, at 4, our child can already study independently."



Ina said her job at HireSmart working for a U.S. client in the community association management industry is a blessing.



She enjoys being able to work from home and watch over her young children.



"As a parent, you will always think of your kids whenever you're not at home, so I believe it will be really tough working in an office-based company right now for me," she said. "So HireSmart is very a big blessing for us."

Vanessa says her daughter is a “happy kid,” and she wants Jana Valerie to stay that way.



Thankfully, a scholarship through HireSmart Cares will do a lot to keep the smile on the seventh grader’s face since she can now remain at a private school in the Philippines with her friends.



Vanessa, a HireSmart employee, says a private school education is far superior to a public school experience in the Philippines.



“I’m also a graduate of private school, so I know the quality of education it can give to my daughter,” she said. “I’m so thankful to HireSmart for helping me sustain the education of my daughter.”



HireSmart provides its employees with medical and dental insurance, leadership training opportunities, and family scholarships, as well as a work-from-home lifestyle for good wages.



Vanessa and her husband, Edgar, have two children, Jana and a son, Josiah Vans, who just started college and plans to be a civil engineer.



The family could afford to send both to private school, but with Josiah moving to college, where costs are double or triple the grade school expenses, Vanessa and Edgar needed to enroll Jana in a public school.  



“She (Jana) didn’t complain; she understood our financial status, but I know, as a mom, she would want to retain her school,” said Vanessa.



She added that Jana was “so happy” when she learned she could stay at the private school with her friends. Jana plans to be an architect one day.



“If by God’s will, they will both be successful, that’s really great to have an architect and a civil engineer at the same time in the family,” said Vanessa.



The proud mom says her daughter is a “very friendly, positive, outspoken kid” and the “joker of her class.” She doesn’t remember her ever getting lower than a 90 on tests.



“I’m not really the type of mom who would push her, but she has that determination to really do well in school,” she said.



Jana participates in math and badminton clubs, and the family plays badminton on the weekends.



“We’re playing with her whenever we can, me and my husband,” she said.



Vanessa has served a community association management client in the U.S. for four years.



“I enjoy the work very much,” she said. “I think I’m the longest-staying Filipino assistant in the (client’s) company. They treat me with respect. It’s a fun environment. There’s pressure, but you can’t really feel it when you’re having fun with your co-employees.”



Vanessa said she also enjoys working for HireSmart, which hires virtual employees to work with their U.S.-based clients. She said she’s unaware of other companies providing families of their virtual employees with scholarships for education.



She thanked HireSmart co-founder and CEO Anne Lackey for helping her family.



“I’m happy we have this offered, and I would like to personally express how grateful I am to Anne and HireSmart for thinking about the employees,” she said. “This is a very good program for the employees because it affects our loved ones. And we are much more appreciative and motivated to work if our loved ones are happy. For me, that’s really true. They are the reason why I’m working hard.”

With her youngest child facing medical issues, Hydee Camoro could no longer afford to send her middle child, Prince Javier, to the private school where he spent the previous two years.  

But that changed after Hydee qualified for an educational scholarship through her employer, HireSmart Virtual Employees, which will cover the cost of Prince Javier’s tuition this year.  

“I’m very happy because he is very happy that he can stay in the same school and stay with his classmates and friends,” she said. “He is very thankful because he can stay with the same teachers. He loves studying there. It’s a fun place that he can enjoy and learn at the same time.” 

Hydee said her son, an 8-year-old third grader, is a talented artist who enjoys painting landscapes. 

“He always asks me to buy drawing materials whenever we go to department stores, and then whenever he has free time, he will spend all day painting his masterpiece,” said the mother of three, ages 17, 8, and 4. 

Hydee said Prince Javier is a responsible and inquisitive child. 

“He’s responsible in the sense that he is my left hand in the house, so he can do the household chores like washing the dishes,” she said. “He can wash his own clothes and look after his younger brother, so things like that. He’s very curious, especially about my work because he can see me working during the night and he will always ask me what I am doing and how to do it.” 

Hydee, a HireSmart employee who does accounting and bookkeeping work for a property management firm in the U.S., said she appreciates HireSmart CEO Anney Lackey for looking out for youth like her own. 

“I wanted to thank Anne Lackey and the HireSmart Cares team because I really feel honored and grateful to have been selected as a recipient of this scholarship grant,” she said. “I wanted to thank everyone for their generosity. I just wish the company and the organization to be able to help a lot of kids in the future, those kids that really need the help. I wish for them to be guided properly so they can have the chance to help every child who needs a proper education. I’m really thankful for everyone, especially Anne Lackey.” 

HireSmart Virtual Employees has a philanthropic branch, HireSmart Cares, which provides scholarships and educational opportunities for youth both in the Philippines and U.S. HireSmart also provides its virtual employees with health and dental benefits.   

If you have an interest in a potential career with HireSmart, click here.  

Mark Lackey, co-founder of HireSmart Companies was the speaker at Rotary to share the vision of HireSmart Cares.

Shannen’s stepbrother, Jared, plans to be a doctor, and his family supports him all the way, putting money aside for his college education.  

But they’re not alone in looking out for Jared’s future. Shannen’s employer, HireSmart, is helping, too, by providing a scholarship that will cover Jared’s ninth-grade school expenses, allowing Shannen and her mom, Cecile, to save for their loved one’s medical degree. 

“I’m super grateful,” said Shannen, HireSmart’s virtual employee relations manager. “It’s really a huge help, especially to my mom. When I told her, she was super dramatic and super emotional. We celebrated when we heard the news, just a little gathering here at home.” 

Shannen said her younger brother’s intellect was evident early. She tutored him prior to preschool and could see he was special.  

“When I was tutoring him, I saw that he can memorize a lot of things so fast, faster than I can,” she said. “And then I realized he is really special. He’s so good in math and English at the same time, which is super rare. I really thought he was special even before he started going to school.” 

The proud big sister and her family have celebrated Jared’s achievements in school.  

“Last year, he received a reward of being with high honors, which was super great,” she said. “Everyone in the family was there to acknowledge him and the recognition.” 

Shannen said she and her mom are working to save money for Jared’s education, but she said saving became much tougher after her father passed away recently.  

“Because of that, I had to get funds from the savings that I had for his (Jared’s) education,” she said. “That was impacted. I need to restart and try to save up again for his college. My mom and I work on that together, but it is very expensive, especially going to med school. It’s something we need to prepare for.”  

Jared changed schools this year and didn’t qualify for a scholarship, but HireSmart stepped in with assistance.  

“I’m super grateful because this will really help me and my mom prepare for my brother’s future,” she said.  

Shannen and her brother also look for ways to help others. She said Jared is “very generous to everyone, especially those in need.” 

“It’s my tradition where every Christmas I would give back, so I would prepare food for the homeless and then go around and give it to them,” she said. “And then later, I realized my brother loves that, too. He would accompany me. He would usually save up the cash he receives during Christmas. He would give me a portion of that to help as well. And he started helping me since he was in grade two.”  

HIRESMART TRULY CARES 

HireSmart Virtual Employees has a nonprofit arm, HireSmart Cares, which seeks to better lives in both the Philippines and the U.S. with scholarships such as these. HireSmart truly cares for its employees, offering medical and dental insurance, good wages, a work-from-home lifestyle, a strong support staff, leadership training possibilities for career advancement, and scholarship opportunities.  

Airene wants the best for her kids, and HireSmart Virtual Employees shares in that aim.  

The company recently awarded Airene a scholarship for her daughter, Francesca Venice, who turns 5 in November.  

“I really wanted to enroll her in a good school,” said Airene, a single mother of two, who also has a son, Austin Savior, 3. “She’s just starting, and I really believe she needs a strong foundation, and that’s something I can only find in a reputable school here.” 

The scholarship will allow Airene to send her daughter to a private school so she can have a strong start to her educational journey. 

The proud mom says her daughter is “very smart, very energetic.”  

“She likes painting,” said Airene. “When she was 3, she started drawing using a crayon that she found on my desk. I was working that night, and then she told me, ‘Hey mom, I drew your face.’ I was just really surprised because she was 3, and she got the sense of shades, and she actually drew my face like a circle, and there’s eyes, nose, and mouth.” 

Airene works for a property management client in the U.S. as part of their administrative team and has been with HireSmart for a year and a half. She said she loves working from home and being able to take care of her children.  

She wants her children to get the best education possible, and she’s eager to support them however she can.  

“I have my dreams for her, but as a mom, I’m here just to support whatever she wants to do in the future,” said Airene. “Even though I say I want her to be a lawyer, which is what I really wanted when I was a kid, but whatever she ends up doing when she grows up, I’m just here to support her. I want her to achieve whatever it is she wants.” 

The virtual employee said she is grateful to HireSmart and CEO Anne Lackey. She said she’s not familiar with other companies offering such perks for the children of their employees.  

“I just really want to say thank you, Anne,” she said. “I’m really grateful to HireSmart, not just for this opportunity but also for introducing me to my client. That alone really helps me a lot in supporting my kids and being able to take care of them while working here from home. This is a bonus. So really thank you so much. I know this will make a huge change in me and my baby’s life.”  

HireSmart Virtual Employees has a philanthropic branch, HireSmart Cares, which provides scholarships and educational opportunities for youth both in the Philippines and U.S. HireSmart also provides its virtual employees with health and dental benefits.