There are students who begin their college education knowing exactly what career path they want to take, and there are those who are uncertain. Ryan Spangler was one of the uncertain ones. Homeschooled until his senior year, attending college wasn’t at the top of his list.

“I knew I wanted to do something in agriculture but wasn’t sure what,” said Spangler. “I checked out a couple of trade schools but didn’t like where they were located. Mom said she didn’t care what I did, but that I had to do something.”

That something was Spoon River College. Spangler registered in the fall of 2013 with a goal of getting his applied science degree in agricultural business management. Coming from a farm family, it seemed the logical choice, even if not one he was overly excited about. “I was looking at college as something I could do while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do.”

By the spring semester, Spangler was feeling differently about the college experience. “I started getting into the groove and it turned out to be a lot more fun than high school.” He was enjoying his classes, making new friends, and was active in PAS (Post-Secondary Agriculture Students). He had even switched from an applied science degree to a transfer degree.

Spangler’s hard work in his classes had also earned him an internship with Ag instructor Jeff Bash, working in the college’s outdoor garden classroom and selling the produce at the local farmer’s market. Later, his livestock judging skills—and his work ethic—got him tapped for a position as a teaching assistant in the Ag department.

Spangler was starting to realize that this was another perk of college; making connections could lead to future employment opportunities. When a local auctioneer and realtor was looking for help, Bash gave Spangler the phone number and said, “Call him.” Spangler made the call, got the job as an auction assistant—and eventually as the office manager—and also became interested in being a realtor himself.

“In Illinois, you have to be 21 to get a real estate license. I wasn’t old enough to take the exam, but I went ahead and started taking the classes anyway,” said Spangler. By then it was 2015. He was in his last year at Spoon River, still working at the real estate office and as a teaching assistant, and now also taking those real estate classes.

By 2017 Spangler was a licensed realtor, and it was while showing a house that he got a tip about another employment opportunity. Once again he made the call, and in 2018 he began working as a lab tech and farm manager for a veterinary service specializing in swine production and research. “The hours were long and the work wasn’t always pretty, but it paid the bills and offered insurance.”

That was important, because by this time, Spangler had met and married Ally, and the young couple were ready to grow their family.

During this time Spangler had also been taking online classes from Fort Hays State University. It had taken longer than planned, but in 2020 Spangler completed his bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness Management.

In February of this year, he accepted a job as a Commercial/Ag Loan Officer at MidAmerica National Bank in Canton. “I was excited to get the job. Their focus is on customer service and giving back to the community, which are two things that are also important to me.”

Spangler and Ally, along with daughter Memphis and son Denver, now reside on a small farm near Canton where raising sheep is a family affair.

Spangler is just 26 years old, and it wasn’t so long ago that he was the kid who didn’t know what he wanted to do. He has some advice for others who may be experiencing that same struggle.

“Just do it; take the class, make the call, accept the job. Work hard, be determined, be positive, and have an open mind. Give whatever you’re doing an honest, fair shot,” said Spangler, who at one time was holding down eight different jobs. “It may not be your ideal job, but it doesn’t have to be your forever job.”

Spangler said he was thankful for the guidance of Bash and Jim Caudle, also an Ag instructor during Spangler’s time as a student. “I have great memories of our outside labs (and four-wheeling!), being on the judging team, and attending the Louisville Expo and the National PAS Conference. I’m still in contact with people I met at those events. Turns out college was a great choice, and I feel like I’ve come full circle.”

a Reluctant Student