The Agricultural Institute (AGI), the two-year associate’s-degree program in N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, introduced its first group of Agricultural Heritage Legacy (AHL) Scholars at a reception October 6. The event was an opportunity for the students to meet representatives of the program’s benefactor, the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission (TTFC). The Agricultural Heritage Legacy Scholarship Program, which recruits and provides personalized education and internship experience to first-generation college students studying in the AGI, is a TTFC Sponsored Project.
The inaugural class of AHL Scholars are first-year Ag Institute students Kody Barbour, Selma, Johnston County; Kristen Bolick, Wendell, Wake County; Blake Johnson, Benson, Johnston County; David Lafferty, Jonesville, Wilkes County; Robert Motsinger, Lexington, Davidson County; Robert Naylor, Clinton, Sampson County; and Brantley Taylor, Yanceyville, Caswell County.
They and their families attended the reception, hosted by Dr. Barbara Kirby, AGI director, at the David Clark Laboratory Atrium on the N.C. State Campus. Also participating were William Upchurch, TTFC executive director; Steve Troxler, state agriculture commissioner; Dr. Ed Jones, CALS Extension associate director and state program leader, Agricultural and Natural Resources/Community and Rural Development; Dr. Lisa Guion, CALS assistant dean for diversity; and Kathy Kennel and Chris Cammarene-Wessel of the N.C. Agricultural Foundation.
“We are excited to present our first class of Agricultural Heritage Legacy Scholars, part of the TTFC scholarship program, and it’s an exciting partnership,” Kirby said. “TTFC is making an investment in these future agriculture/agribusiness leaders, and in return the students will contribute to the agricultural workforce. We hope that our graduates will return to agriculture and natural resources and build the future.”
Added Jones, “Ag education is not just what happens on this campus. It’s a lifelong endeavor and partnership. When you [students] go home, N.C. State reaches through you into that home community. To do that, we need great partners like the TTFC.”
TTFC’s Upchurch told the students, “Congratulations on this opportunity for you and this opportunity for us to put some money into the future. We need more young people going into agriculture and making the ag community grow. I want to congratulate you on behalf of the whole board, and we are glad we had a part to play.”
According to Kirby, the AHL program is designed to provide two-year scholarships and internships to seven students in AGI. In addition, the student leadership opportunities are provided free of charge to all participants through the General H. Hugh Shelton Leadership Center. “Students who are first in their family to attend college will receive priority,” Kirby said. “Focus will be on counties classified as tobacco-dependent and still deriving most of their income from agriculture. Students will be required to cost-share expenses and return to agriculture/agribusiness work in their home or family counties upon graduation.”
Noting that the cost of education for two semesters at N.C. State is $18,427, Kirby said, “This scholarship helps reduce family debt and the hours that students would need to work to pay for college.”
The AHL scholars will gain hands-on skills using the latest agricultural technologies that improve effectiveness and efficiency, Kirby said. “As Agricultural Institute students, they will also acquire knowledge on implementing best management practices and sound decision-making that increase agricultural profitability and sustainability.”
One leadership and professional development activity provided to the AHL scholars is a fall semester seminar called “Agricultural Perspectives and Opportunity,” taught by Commissioner Troxler.
“I cannot express how much I enjoy being in the class and interacting with the students, so this is special to me,” said Troxler. He also recalled the 1999 nine-mile “tractorcade” down the streets of Raleigh to the legislature to ensure tobacco farmers would be given part of the state’s share of the national tobacco settlement.
The North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission was established in 2000 by the N.C. General Assembly to help members of the tobacco community – including farmers, tobacco workers and related businesses – lessen the impact of declining tobacco production. Its funding comes from monies paid by cigarette manufacturers as a result of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement.
“This is something we envisioned then, being able to help students in the ag community,” said Troxler. “We do need young people in agriculture.” – Terri Leith