You won’t catch Emery Reid slurping down a caramel macchiato or a vanilla latte with his morning muffin. He prefers to enjoy the bold taste of expertly roasted beans without extra flavors added, and has developed a deep appreciation for the skill required to create the perfect coffee blend.

He was on a mission trip in Nicaragua when he first discovered the art of roasting green coffee beans. He was coached on the process and how important it is to look at the changing color of the beans, then listen as they begin to crack to produce the desired flavor — first crack for a light roast and second crack for a bolder taste. Once he learned the basics, he brought a bag of raw beans home for roasting.

“I was so excited when I learned how to roast coffee that I wanted everyone to try it,” he said. “There is a real art to getting the most out of the beans.”

Like roasting coffee, many of his favorite hobbies have landed in his lap when he wasn’t really looking for something new. He was just 14 when his brother had the bright idea to form a band and tagged Emery to play the drums. That led to an interest in songwriting and participation in a number of other bands over the years. He currently plays guitar and bass for “Shady Appalachia” and, if you see him walking around campus with a thoughtful look on his face, there’s a good chance he’s writing a new song in his head.

His real job, though, is as Academic Services Coordinator for VHCC’s Upward Bound Program. He identifies with the students he meets because of his own educational journey. As a high school student, he planned to attend either Virginia Tech or the University of Virginia, and was disappointed when he wasn’t accepted to either. With his mother’s blessing, he moved to the Blacksburg area, got an apartment, and enrolled at New River Community College for the first two years. After he had chosen a major and earned an associate’s degree, Virginia Tech was proud to welcome him to campus.

He credits his mother for helping him understand the value of hard work and the importance of making the best of every situation. A single parent, she raised two sons, managed a family farm, and put herself through college. Her upbeat attitude has allowed him to look for creative solutions when responsibilities seem overwhelming.

For example, when his third child was born and the babysitter quit, Emery left his job as a high school history teacher and became a stay-at-home dad. Each evening, when his wife got home from work, he went to work at small construction projects — remodeling bathrooms and building decks for those who didn’t mind his odd hours — to supplement the family income. After a year of diaper duty — followed by nearly a year at Zenith Power Products, an industrial engine manufacturer in Abingdon — he took his current position with Upward Bound, and began sharing lessons learned with the young people he mentors.

“I learned that if you really work for something, you can achieve it,” he said. “I try to help students overcome whatever is in their way so they can accomplish their goals.”

 

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