LSU program offers students in-depth look at agriculture

(07/22/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – Sixteen high school students from across Louisiana spent July 11-15 on the LSU campus immersed in agriculture. They were part of the first Governor’s School for Agricultural Sciences at LSU, a residential program for high-achieving students put on by the LSU College of Agriculture.

Leslie Blanchard, assistant dean of the LSU College of Agriculture, said the school was established to educate students in agricultural subject areas such as business, environmental management, plant and soil systems, animal science, and nutrition and food sciences, and showcase career options in agricultural sciences.

“We wanted to show them if you major in agriculture, there is an array of job opportunities for you,” Blanchard said.

The students participated in on- and off-campus field experiences that included visits to various departments on campus and trips to agricultural businesses. Tours included Tiger Stadium with a discussion on turfgrass management; Bracy’s Nursery, a large wholesale nursery in Amite City; Zen-Noh Grain, a grain elevator in Convent; and the LSU AgCenter Aquaculture Research Station.

They also participated in “lunch and learn” presentations. One was in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, where they heard about career options in those fields. The students made their own healthful lunch with the help nutrition and food sciences students.

“I love how we’re exposed to so many different aspects of agriculture. Because agriculture is such a diverse field, they have a spot for everyone,” said Alexandra Prymek, a senior at Caddo Parish Magnet High School.

Jaci Cooper, a senior at Ponchatoula High School who is interested in studying animal sciences, said the week opened her eyes to how expansive agriculture is. Cooper works on a farm, and said she was impressed by a demonstration of a drone and a discussion about how drones can be used in agriculture.

“That connected with me because we have to check the cattle every day, and it can take two hours. Being able to put that drone to use would put it down to just a few minutes,” she said.

The program also included a leadership workshop with strategizing and problem-solving activities.

Throughout the week, the students also worked on ways to attract more young people to careers in agriculture, where job openings greatly outnumber people to fill them.

“The USDA and Purdue University collaborated on a study published last year, and 57,900 jobs open each year requiring a four-year degree in agriculture,” Blanchard said. “As a nation, we are only producing 38,000 students, so there is a big gap there.”

The week concluded with presentations from the students about what they learned in the program and their ideas to get more students to fill that gap.

“We really targeted the negative stigma because a lot of people have a bad image of agriculture, and it’s inaccurate and uneducated,” Prymek said.

Anthony Nunnery, a senior from Bonnabel High School, said he felt he learned more in one week than he had learned in all of high school.

“It was a great experience,” Nunnery said. “Everyone had one goal in mind, and it made getting to that goal so much easier.”

During the closing ceremony, each student was presented with a $1,000 scholarship to the LSU College of Agriculture that they can use if they enroll in fall 2017.

Universities across the country have similar experiences for high school students. The purpose of governor’s schools is to provide a constructive residential learning environment for gifted students to explore their potential.

The Governor’s School students were:

Jaci Cooper, Pontchatoula; Dean Dante, Walker; Ryan Danos, Iowa; Melodie DuBose, Minden; Colt Dutruch, Covington; Danielle Hampton, Hammond; Bonnie Gilmore, Houma; John Adam Howe, Baton Rouge; Gentry Hurst, Erwinville; Alexandra Lambert, New Orleans; Matthew Letendre, Ruston; Mackenzie Martinez, Zwolle; Anthony Nunnery, Kenner; Alexandra Prymek, Shreveport; Wyatt Savant, Ville Platte; and Jack Walters, Ruston.

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Sixteen high school students participated in the Louisiana Governor’s School for Agricultural Sciences, a residential program for high-achieving students on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge. Participants were, (back) Cody Dutruch, Gentry Hurst, Ryan Danos, Anthony Nunnery, Matthew Letendre, (middle) Melodie DuBose, Danielle Hampton, John Adam Howe, Dean Dante, Alexandra Prymek, Bonnie Gilmore, (front) Wyatt Savant, Alexandra Lambert, Jack Walters, Jaci Cooper, and Mackenzie Martinez. Photo by Tobie Blanchard

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A drone hovers in front of participants in the Governor’s School for Agricultural Sciences, a residential program for high-achieving students on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge. The students learned how drones are used in agriculture during one of their field experiences. Photo by Tobie Blanchard

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Gentry Hurst and Wyatt Savant work on fruit nachos at a “lunch and learn” presentation during the Louisiana Governor’s School for Agricultural Sciences. The students heard about career opportunities in nutrition and food sciences while preparing a healthful lunch. Photo by Tobie Blanchard

7/22/2016 7:36:10 PM
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