Braxton Citizens' News, Schools

Three BCHS agriculture graduates receive full scholarships to WVSU

By Shirley Shuman

Josh Porto, Braxton County High agriculture education instructor, has announced that three of his completers have received four-year scholarships to West Virginia State University.  Ryleigh Dempsey, Leah Tanner, and Morgan Whitney are recipients of scholarships worth $92,000 per student plus $30,000 for internships for three summers.  The only major requirement for this scholarship is that applicants be four-year completers in agriculture education.

The scholarship awards followed the agriculture students’  applications some time ago. Porto explained that when he learned of the possibility of one or more of his qualifying students receiving a scholarship, he encouraged the seniors to apply. He and they were suitably rewarded for their efforts considering only 10 of these scholarships were available in the state.

The recipients’ reactions to their success varied somewhat although all three were “excited.”  Dempsey explained that she was “surprised” and added, “I was afraid I wouldn’t get it.” Receiving the scholarship has led her to change her plans for college and even major. “I had planned to go to WVU,” she said, “and I was going to major in education.”  The daughter of Danielle Bailey and Michael Fitzwater, she now must choose a major which allows a career related to agriculture. “I really love agriculture,” she noted. “This is an excellent opportunity.”

Leah Tanner, daughter of Crystal Tanner and Gary Long, had already decided to attend West  Virginia State University for her undergraduate studies. “I chose WV State because it’s a small campus and close to home,” she explained. “I was a little surprised when I received the text message and also an email about the scholarships,  and I was definitely very excited,” she said.   Tanner may be making the fewest   changes as the result of the scholarship. Originally she had planned to major in financing; now she will major in economics. Asked how her second choice relates to agriculture, she quickly noted the market for agriculture products.

International business is the major Morgan Whitney has chosen to pursue at West Virginia State University this  fall. Whitney, who said she was  “surprised when she learned she had been selected to receive one of the scholarships,”  will also pursue fields in agri-business and management. Receiving this scholarship is truly a blessing for Whitney, who said she had not planned to go to college because she could not afford it.  Her original plan was to train narcotic and patrol dogs.

Funding for these scholarships comes from a cooperative agreement between the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Extension Foundation which is providing technical assistance for From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals along with West Virginia State University, according to Porto. Dr. John Kessel, program leader for Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources for West Virginia State University Extension Service,  wrote the grant to obtain the money for the scholarships. Each year the Next Generation program has a goal of providing this scholarship to 10 West Virginia students.

The Next Generation program  began with the West Virginia Agriculture Professionals and is  led by West Virginia State University. Dr. Kessler, who wrote the grant for the funds, is in charge of the program. NextGen, as it is called, “aims to support and encourage the development of the next generation of agriculture professionals in West Virginia by providing scholarships to 10 students who are pursuing a career with the USDA.”

Connie Adkins, NextGen coordinator on campus, will be working with the students who received these scholarships. She is definitely optimistic about the positive results associated with educating these young people for careers relating to agriculture. “This [program] isn’t just going to affect these students’ lives. It will change families; it will even change communities,” Adkins declared. Adkins firmly believes that, by the time scholarship recipients have finished their education, there will be jobs waiting for them.