Courtesy of James Emery

Hunter Oberst
News Editor

Two Keene State College students have been honored as Outstanding Future Professionals (OFP) at the Society of Health and Physical Educators Conference for the first time in history.

Brandon Castor and James Emery, both KSC seniors and human performance and movement sciences program students, were recognized nationally in November 2020 at the New Hampshire Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance virtual conference. This marked the first time ever that two students from the same institution were honored as OFPs.

Emery said he was very excited and proud to have been given this award.

“I was made aware of the award freshman year and I knew it was a goal I wanted to work towards,” Emery said. “There were lots of spending long nights in the library doing work while others were doing other things and going out. All that hard work wasn’t just reflective of my GPA, but it led to this and that made it worth it.”

Castor said winning the award was a big deal for him.

“It’s a huge award,” Castor said. “Being recognized nationally is a big deal and it’s more enjoyable that [James and I] were pushing towards the same goal and it paid off for both of us. It’s something to strive for. You don’t always reach that peak but it’s still important to work towards it. I didn’t start very strong academically my freshman year. To find that rhythm and purpose and to get that accomplishment – I feel like I deserve this with my time and effort.”

Castor and Emery met as first-years at Keene State as they were both studying physical education. Castor said the program size was small which led to him and Emery becoming good friends.

“There were only about 23 to 26 students. James was one of the few I became close friends with. We had the same mindset. We were always pushing each other and we had all the same classes.”

“The sciences came naturally to me and Brandon was a great people-person,” Emery said.

Castor added that he was nervous leading up to the awards conference in November.

“The night of, I was pretty anxious,” Castor said. “Then they finally revealed the last slide and it was James and I. It was a surreal moment. It would have been incredible to be in person. It was still incredible. My family was on Zoom, as well, and everyone was freaking out.”

“Brandon is a great guy, well-deserving,” Emery said. “In a way, we were competing all four years. At the conference they said his name and I assumed he had won it. But then they announced my name too and everybody was shocked.”

Emery comes from Essex Junction, Vermont. He said he knew he wanted to be a teacher early on. “I grew up around teachers,” Emery said. During his senior year in highschool he participated in a community internship, an adaptive physical education program. Emery added that while searching for colleges he attended an open house at Keene State because his grandmother had attended nearly 70 years prior.

“After meeting the people and seeing the campus, I knew I wanted to come to school here,” Emery said. “Getting [in] to Keene State and getting immersed in the program made me love it even more.”

Castor comes from Southwick, Massachusetts. He said his senior year of highschool he was bouncing around a lot, figuring out what he wanted to do. He had an internship at a gym at that time. Castor said he was interested in the field of exercise and by his first year at Keene State he knew he wanted to study either physical education or exercise science. During his sophomore year at Keene, in an Adapted P.E. class he worked with students with special needs, and shaped an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and worked with the students weekly.

“I could see that once I assessed the student and incorporated appropriate progressions to help this student become better at balance and stability that his excitement for physical activity grew,” Castor said. “It was at this point that I loved what I was doing when I was making an impactful change in a student’s life, and seeing their face grow up with excitement after seeing their own physical progress was everything to me.”

Emery accredited the primary reason to his and Castor’s having been recognized as OFPs was because of their professors. “Getting to know them and asking questions got us this award,” Emery said.

Physical education professor Dr. Fitni Destani said he was super excited, but not surprised, to see Castor and Emery win.

“I’ve known both from beginning to end,” Destani said. “It was a no-brainer.”

To be recognized as OFPs, Destani said students need to display hard work and leadership skills. He added that, on top of their accomplishments in academics, Castor and Emery showed leadership elsewhere. Castor was a multi-sport athlete, competing in track and field and men’s soccer. He was also the leader of the physical education club at the college. Emery was an E-board member of Owl Nation as well as an RA on campus.

“If I had a son– which I do– I would want them to grow up just like them,” Destani said.

Emery added that he was able to gain much knowledge and professionalism from his physical education professors.

“One thing P.E. professionals hate hearing is that all we are is gym teachers,” Emery said. “Our professors made us understand how important what we do for kids is and how they can take the skills we teach them and carry them with them for the rest of their lives.”

Castor compared his professors to the role of a coach.

“They were there to help us but also to give us a slap on the wrist,” Castor said. “I would rather hear constructive criticism over what I did well. Mentally, I already know what I did well and I want to know what I can do better. I give them my utmost credit and respect.”

Both Emery and Castor said they will pursue a master’s degree. Emery said he is currently applying and interviewing for physical education jobs all over Vermont. Castor said he intends to take the Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure and intends to work in the Springfield school system.


Hunter Oberst can be contacted at:

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