CHS Foundation, WT Department of Agricultural Sciences team to target diverse future students

Local News

CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – A new grant, announced West Texas A&M University, will aim to help attract diverse regional high school students who want to pursue rewarding agricultural industry jobs.

The CHS Foundation, funded by gifts from CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative, intends to give $120,000 to WT’s Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences to create curriculum in seven high schools in Randall, Potter and Deaf Smith counties.

“This generous grant will allow us to target diverse students from non-rural, non-agricultural backgrounds and show them how many viable career opportunities are in their own backyards in the agricultural industry,” said Dr. Kevin Pond, dean of the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences.

The University hopes that through the program, high school students will have opportunities to meet some of the area’s ag industry leaders, get in-depth presentations on the opportunities the industry presents and more. They’ll be able to participate in person and virtually, at their high schools, on the WT campus and at industry partner locations.

“Agriculture is a vast and diverse industry that is always growing,” said Dr. Kevin Williams, assistant professor of agricultural education and supervisor of the CHS Foundation grant project. “As we move into the future, we need to continually grow our workforce by sharing career opportunities with youth from a variety of backgrounds, including both rural and urban areas.”

WT faculty and graduate students, with the help of undergraduate agriculture students, were noted to be the ones to create the curriculum and educational materials, which also will be used to promote agricultural technologies and career opportunities to students already enrolled in WT’s Department of Agricultural Sciences.

“We are striving to give local high school students an educational, hands-on experience that caters to their industry interests,” said Courtney Coffman, one of WTAMU’s graduate assistants working on the project. “Agriculture is more than just raising animals and crops. It is tied to nearly every part of our everyday lives. It is important that students learn how crucial this industry is and how many ways they can be a significant part of it.”

“This program will also greatly benefit the undergraduate students that work on the project,” said Eric Koennecke, another of WT’s graduate assistants. “They will be showcasing the knowledge they have gained through their degree programs. They also will be further developing essential skills, such as leadership, teamwork and self-confidence, that they will utilize in their futures.”

The CHS Foundation is focused on developing a new generation of agriculture leaders for life-long success, said Nanci Lilja, CHS Foundation president.

“Inclusion is a core value for CHS,” Lilja said. “We recognize that diverse thinking, voices and backgrounds are needed to help make the agriculture industry even more successful. We are excited about the impact the WT program will have on students as they learn there is a place for them in agriculture.”

The University said that a pursuit of academic excellence and responsiveness to this region’s needs are key components of the long-term plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.


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