New Washington State University Program Hopes to Encourage Careers in Ag

Tianna DuPont, WSU Extension tree fruit specialist, helps students with an experiment during their fall Spark tour of the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, WA. (Photo credit: WSU)

Washington State University’s (WSU) Spark program is igniting interest in careers in agriculture among high school and minority students who grow up in agriculture families.

In partnership with Stemlit Growers, the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, and the WSU Wenatchee Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, WSU started Spark with a fall event in Wenatchee, WA.

“We wanted to show them that they can use knowledge they’ve gained growing up to have an exciting and lucrative career,” said Kari Sampson, assistant director of recruitment and retention in WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS). “We wanted to increase their interest and change their perception of agriculture.

“And the feedback we got showed we did just that,” she said. “We even heard from one young woman who is applying to WSU based purely on what she learned at a Spark tour. It’s exciting to have that kind of direct impact.”

High school students from around the region toured Stemlit, interacted with ag professionals – including product managers, business professionals, human resource representatives, and horticulturists – connected with WSU ag students and met with WSU research and Extension groups to learn about ag science and opportunities in industry and academia.

“CAHNRS academic programs visited several companies and farms around north-central Washington last year, and a common theme was they can’t find enough people to apply for vacant jobs,” Sampson said. “According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for every person who graduates with a degree in ag, there are three to four jobs available.”

The students rotated through four WSU labs that specialize in genetics, plant pathology, entomology, and soil research. While working with the scientists, participants competed for a scholarship redeemable when they attend WSU and pursue an ag-related major.

WSU graduate research assistant Paco Gonzalez-Tapia, who recently earned a bachelor’s degree from WSU, said he wished the program existed when he was in high school.

“Spark can serve as a compass for prospective students, showing them a path to a career that they never would have considered,” said Gonzalez-Tapia, who spoke to students about his WSU experience and answered questions at the Spark tour.

Zed Deenik, a program director at Chelan High School, brought a small group of students and plans to bring more to future events.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “But it was great for students to see options they didn’t know about. And it’s great that WSU was willing to take the time to show them these choices exist.”

“The Spark program provides a wonderful opportunity to link up with area high schoolers and share with them the opportunities to work in agriculture,” said Jim McFerson, director of the WSU Wenatchee center.

“And who knows,” he said. “Thanks to the Spark program, some of these students may eventually work at our center, or enroll at WSU, or find great jobs in ag in our area. Or all of the above.”

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

GenNext Growers Stories
GenNext Growers
February 16, 2017
Young Farmer Success Act Reintroduced to Congress
Bill to add young growers to Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Read More
GenNext Growers
January 26, 2017
New Washington State University Program Hopes to Encourage Careers in Ag
The Spark program highlights opportunities in agriculture for minority, high school students. Read More
GenNext Growers
January 21, 2017
$8.8M Available to Support Ag Programs at Hispanic-Serving Institutions
Grants designed to attract, retain students in agricultural fields. Read More
Fruits
January 19, 2017
Funding Available to Improve Ag, Food Sciences Facilities at Land Grant Schools
USDA announces $18.9 million for ag education at 1890s land-grant colleges and universities. Read More
GenNext Growers
January 18, 2017
$858,000 in Grants to Encourage Careers in Agriculture Science
Funding to invest in programs that educate, promote science in the classroom. Read More
cash money in hand
GenNext Growers
January 17, 2017
9 Financial Resolutions to Boost Your Farm’s Bottom Line
If a goal for the new year includes increasing profitability, there are ways you can better manage your business. Read More
Basic tractor on the horizon
GenNext Growers
December 16, 2016
What to Know When Purchasing New or Used Farm Equipment
Prepare to ask as many questions as possible to determine whether it will serve your operation in the long term. Read More
The Latest
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
New Mobile Apps for Farmers to Grow on t…
Thanks to the latest in software technology, real-time decisions can be made with one swipe of your finger. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
In-The-Field Learning Invaluable for Gen…
Annual tour allows Florida's future farming leaders the chance to have open and honest discussions with CEOs and managers and tap into their knowledge. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 16, 2017
Young Start-Up Hort Tech Companies Honor…
Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology Scholarships promote sustainability. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 16, 2017
Young Farmer Success Act Reintroduced to…
Bill to add young growers to Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Read More
GenNext Growers
January 26, 2017
New Washington State University Program …
The Spark program highlights opportunities in agriculture for minority, high school students. Read More
GenNext Growers
January 21, 2017
$8.8M Available to Support Ag Programs a…
Grants designed to attract, retain students in agricultural fields. Read More
Fruits
January 19, 2017
Funding Available to Improve Ag, Food Sc…
USDA announces $18.9 million for ag education at 1890s land-grant colleges and universities. Read More
GenNext Growers
January 18, 2017
$858,000 in Grants to Encourage Careers …
Funding to invest in programs that educate, promote science in the classroom. Read More
GenNext Growers
January 17, 2017
9 Financial Resolutions to Boost Your Fa…
If a goal for the new year includes increasing profitability, there are ways you can better manage your business. Read More
GenNext Growers
December 16, 2016
What to Know When Purchasing New or Used…
Prepare to ask as many questions as possible to determine whether it will serve your operation in the long term. Read More
GenNext Growers
December 15, 2016
Study Says Young Growers Seek More Infor…
Automation and data access on smart phones among key interests. Read More
GenNext Growers
December 11, 2016
California Agricultural Leadership Progr…
Twenty-four individuals have been selected for Class 47 of the California Agricultural Leadership Program, an advanced leadership development experience for Read More
GenNext Growers
December 4, 2016
New Loans Available For Small, Beginning…
USDA recently announced streamlined guaranteed Loans and additional lender category for small-scale operators. Read More
GenNext Growers
November 30, 2016
Virtual Conference Designed For New, Beg…
National Farmers Union to present a conference that is entirely web-based. Read More
GenNext Growers
November 19, 2016
Agriculture’s Next Generation Aimi…
University Of Florida program puts feeding a rapidly growing population in the hands of students. Read More
GenNext Growers
November 17, 2016
Deadline Nearing For 2017 Almond Leaders…
Program dedicated to preparing next generation of industry leaders. Read More
GenNext Growers
November 17, 2016
Expert Answers Questions About Making Yo…
Returning to the family farm is a big step for both family members on the farm and those returning home. Read More
GenNext Growers
October 19, 2016
10 Suggestions For Making Your Return To…
Blood may be thicker than water, but also it could put business interests in the red, if you let it. Read More