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Your Neighbor: Meet Cortland Stewart

By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier

Cortland Stewart learned from a young age to appreciate the beauty of simple things around her. Stewart was born in Yadkinville as the older of two children. “I played a lot of sports when I was younger, but gravitated towards art once I got into high school. My great-grandmother was a watercolorist,” notes Stewart. “I also had a very inspiring teacher, Ms. Matthews, that made an impact on my appreciation for art.”

Stewart’s plans for college were curtailed slightly when she found out she was pregnant with her daughter, Amelia (affectionately called Emmy), when she was 19. “It was tough to go to school and raise a young child. Luckily Emmy’s dad and I opted to co-parent and it was the right choice for us. She has lots of family,” explains Stewart. The new mom decided to work at the Farmstead Nursery where she had flexible work hours for her daughter. “I had several people around me that ignited my love for horticulture. Emmy’s aunt worked at Reynolda Gardens and I was enamored with all of the different plants. I started my own plant collection too.”  Stewart began taking classes on horticulture at Forsyth Technical Community College to complement what she was learning at work.

In Stewart’s spare time she also started volunteering at a local rescue. “I had gotten my first cat at 21 and fell in love. I wanted to do more to help abandoned cats in our community. I reached out to the Animal Adoption and Rescue Foundation (AARF) to help with fostering. I also thought I could help with advertising available animals with my background in art and design,” says Stewart. Her efforts have helped support and grow their foster network, and create more opportunities in local pet stores for showcasing animals in their program. “We participate in 40 pet store adoption centers to advertise cats in our care. It’s a great way for them to be exposed to potential adopters. I’ll go and check on the cats that are there and make sure that they are doing well while they wait for their forever families,” explains Stewart. She finds creating awareness is critical. “Social media is a powerful tool. I like utilizing it to educate the community about important issues for the animals and helping them get adopted. I’ve learned so much and like to share what I’ve learned with others,” notes Stewart.

Stewart’s passion for making a difference in the community has empowered her to go back to school at Forsyth Tech to obtain her associate’s degree in science. “I have learned how to do a lot of medical things from volunteering at AARF. I know ultimately I’d like to get my biology degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I’m hopeful to have that completed in the next 3 or 4 years. It’ll take some time on top of working but I’m committed to making it happen,” explains Stewart.

On top of finding a professional path, Stewart also found her future husband through mutual friends. “Shay and I are actually getting ready to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary this Halloween,” says Stewart. “We just got along so well when we met each other. I’ve married my best friend.”

While things have fallen into place for Stewart, she still makes sure to find the right balancing act for her daughter. “It’s important to be there for Emmy. Right now she is being homeschooled because of COVID-19. For fun we like to do a lot of gardening. She’s a great helper with my plant collection. We also like to go to places like the zoo,” says Stewart.

Stewart likes to share with her daughter her love for art. “I don’t do as much creating of art these days. I’ve begun to collect local artists more than anything. I think it’s fun to decorate with great finds. I would liken myself a bit of an art thrifter. I have found so many great deals to make my home unique. I guess you could say I’m a bit on the eccentric side. I have an entire wall dedicated to local artists’ works. I don’t believe in decorating my house for when someone will buy it in 20 years,” says Stewart.

Luckily our neighbor’s passions have often led her to her next step and adventure in life. As Dale Carnegie once said, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun doing it.”