Nineteen high school students from 10 states spent two weeks on the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) campus as part of the AgDiscovery summer enrichment residential career exploration program. Dr. Christopher C. Mathis Jr., program director, said participants gained a firsthand look at career opportunities in the agricultural sciences through hands-on labs, field trips and group and team-building activities.
“AgDiscovery at UAPB was successful due to the ‘boots on the ground,’ with Mr. Dameion White, who served as the program coordinator, and the dynamic staff he assembled this year,” Dr. Mathis said. “It was through collaboration with Mr. White and Mrs. Karen Tate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Wildlife Services, that each day, the students spent time learning from and interacting with APHIS professionals, university professors and other career professionals who opened their laboratories and led field trips for the participating students and staff.”
Dr. Mathis said AgDiscovery is a special program that gives junior and high schoolers invaluable experience and insight into careers in agriculture. Those who participated in the 2022 program can now say they have conducted electrofishing, extracted strawberry DNA and participated in mock animal and plant health investigations.
Field trips are always a highlight of the program, he said. Students shot archery and canoed on the Arkansas River during a visit to the Delta Rivers Nature Center, learned the ins and outs of wildlife management at airports at the Little Rock Air Force Base and toured a fish farm.
Dr. Mathis said five of the AgDiscovery 2022 participants shared takeaways from their experience.
Blake LaPean – junior from Garner, Kansas
LaPean said he found out about AgDiscovery when he was searching on the internet for summer programs related to agriculture.
He said, “I love agriculture, so AgDiscovery seemed like an ideal fit. I saw I had the option to attend in Kansas, but I chose to come to Pine Bluff to learn and experience something new and different. I wanted to get a feel for what people do in Arkansas since it is the heart of agriculture.
I learned so much about agriculture that I never knew – for example, I learned about the existence of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Most of all, I enjoyed learning and participating in fun activities with my friends.
I want to become an ag-education teacher because I love Future Farmers of America. I hope to become an advisor and teach others who want to learn about agriculture.”
Xandria Reyes – 2022 high school graduate from Kauai, Hawaii
When planning her summer break, Reyes said she wanted to attend a camp outside of Hawaii.
She said, “My pastor was helping me look for programs that can help me get my foot in the door to become a veterinarian. I saw there was a program in Arkansas, and I have a cousin who lives there.
I loved everything about the experience. I came thinking it was going to be more about vet services, but I learned about the many other opportunities in agriculture. If my plans related to veterinary sciences don’t work out, I have many other fields to choose from.”
Emberlyn “Lyn” Grimstead – first-year student from Fort Worth, Texas
Grimstead said she signed up for AgDiscovery because of the range of exciting activities planned such as the fieldtrips to the Little Rock Air Force Base and the ecotoxicology facility at Arkansas State University.
She said, “There were a lot of cool events, but I most enjoyed doing activities with other people. I feel like this experience will help me determine a college. I am now interested in attending UAPB. It seems like a really good school with lots of hands-on opportunities.”
Paxton Herndon – senior from Brandon, Mississippi
Herndon said a family friend who works for the USDA suggested he sign up for the program.
He said, “I really think AgDiscovery has helped me broaden my mindset about agriculture. I learned that there is much more to agriculture than I originally thought. I was also able to gain contacts in the industry.
One of my favorite parts of the program was the trip to Keo Fish Farm. I enjoyed handling the fish, snakes and crawfish. It was interesting to see how they operate the farm.”
Jamiya Coffey – first-year student from Dermott, Arkansas
Coffey said she applied for the program because she wanted to learn to grow plants and crops like her grandparents used to.
She said, “We had an animal farm with chickens, geese and a baby calf. Thanks to AgDiscovery, I learned more about agriculture and farming. I feel I can now grow my own plants and raise more animals.”
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.