There are many famous quotes about that almost mystical connection between food and community.
With characteristic candor, Rial Tombes puts it more succinctly. When asked what her passion is, she replied, "Playing in the dirt and then cooking a delicious meal for friends and family." Her commitment to bringing her community access to healthy foods, to sustainability, and to raising awareness of food issues on campus, take civic engagement to a new level.
Tombes is a senior majoring in environmental policy and planning, with a minor in civic agriculture and food systems. She is a visionary thinker who is well respected by her peers, faculty and community. As a sophomore, Tombes started the On Campus Farmers Market, a project to connect students with local vendors and the Blacksburg Farmers Market. She organizes community meals with local faith-based organizations, promoting access to healthy food, and creating opportunities for dialogue between faculty, students, and community members. She is active in the Sustainable Food Corps, the Environmental Coalition, and is a student liaison for Virginia Tech's award-winning dining services and the Kentland Farms dining services garden. She devoted her spring breaks to service through Heifer International. And she worked to establish the 15-acre Hale YMCA Community Garden, which provides space for organic gardening, exploration of environmentally-based community projects, and environmental education through shared work, shared conversation, and shared learning.
Tombes' advice is simple. "Be confident in yourself first," she said. "You can accomplish anything."
This has been a busy year for Tombes, and one that represents the capstone to her long record of service. She organized Food Day at Virginia Tech last fall. And this spring she spearheaded the first ever Student Foodshed Summit. Both of these events enhanced the visibility of local food efforts and the role that students at Virginia Tech can play in supporting local, healthy food systems.
Her nominator wrote, "Rial's creative leadership ability and unassuming persona have resulted in a ripple effect with students when it comes to cultivating civic engagement around community food systems. Rial is a unique and multidimensional individual who challenges all of us to live more responsibly and with integrity. When Rial graduates this May, her volunteerism legacy will inspire others to serve."
For her dedication to the well-being of her peers, her campus, and her community; for her focus and energy; and for the strong work ethic that drives her to get the job done, the Aspire! Award for Ut Prosim is presented to Rial Tombes.