A veterinarian, an agricultural teacher, a forestry specialist, an animal geneticist.
These are just a handful of career aspirations shared by 16 graduating high school seniors who were invited to the 15th Annual Ag Scholarship Luncheon on Monday, where the Turlock Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee awarded them $20,500 in scholarships.
“The Chamber Ag Committee is proud to continue supporting our young citizens as they move forward into careers in agricultural related fields,” said Dianna Bettencourt, Ag Committee chair. “Ag is the lifeblood of Stanislaus County, and these young leaders represent out future.”
A sold out crowd of 350 industry supporters, family and students gathered at the Turlock Turf Club to honor local, college-bound high school seniors who intend to pursue studies in the agriculture industry.
“Every year, this committee raises an outstanding amount of money to help educate our future agricultural leaders and to assist promoting agricultural education throughout our community,” said Kyle Kirkes, Turlock Chamber Board chair.
“Fifteen years ago when this program was started it was a vision to be able to raise enough money to support the agricultural industry here in our community,” continued Kirkes. “This community has made sure that the vision has been reached and that we continue to move forward for the future of agriculture.”
Although the highlight of the luncheon was scholarships, keynote speaker Dennis Dimick, executive director and environment editor with National Geographic magazine, still managed to captivate the audience with his compelling discussion on how “food and agriculture have now made the front page.”
“Probably the greatest problem facing humanity is how we’re going to go about feeding our world population,” said Dimick. “We need to start a conversation in order to build a bridge between food and agriculture and the rest of culture.
“We are trying to help people understand what it takes to make this all happen,” he continued.
Following Dimick was alumni speaker Christi Hobby, who reflected on her time in FFA and her own scholarship from the Turlock Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee.
Hobby, who graduated in 2009, attended Modesto Junior College for two years where she received her associate degree in agriculture business. She then transferred to California State University, Chico where she earned her bachelor’s degree in agriculture business.
“This scholarship allowed my higher education and this networking to get me to where I am today,” said Hobby.
Just like Hobby, current Hughson High School senior Kristen Voss’ future has become more fiscally possible thanks to her receipt of a $1,500 scholarship from the Turlock Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee.
Voss has been a member of the Hughson 4-H Club for eight years and the National FFA Organization for four years.
At the luncheon, she reported that she has already been offered a paid internship at the Oregon Health and Science University Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute.
“There I will have the opportunity to work hands-on with animals and obtain more knowledge in the animal science field,” said Voss.
In the fall, Voss plans to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo or California State University, Chico to major in agricultural science in education with an emphasis on teaching. Upon graduation, she hopes to return to the area in order to become a local teacher.
“Just as mine had done for me, as a teacher I hope to provide my students with endless opportunities to prove how anything agriculturally related makes a difference in the world,” said Voss.
Also in attendance was Turlock High School senior Dominic Vieira, who was awarded a $1,000 scholarship.
“I just wanted to say how honored I am to be receiving this scholarship,” said Vieira. “It’s a big deal for me so thank you.”
In what he describes as a “great experience,” Vieira reported that he has been involved with agriculture his whole life with the past four years having been dedicated to FFA.
The high school senior revealed that he is already enrolled at MJC where he is taking an introductory class.
“It’ll open some doors and give me priority registration which is nice,” laughed Vieira.
Vieira plans to earn a degree in agriculture business at MJC and later transfer to California State University, Fresno, where he will obtain his Bachelor of Science in agriculture business. Upon graduation, he hopes to return home to take over his family’s business.
Other recipients included Kenneth Carder from Denair High School; Allyson Sousa from Hilmar High School; Cheyenne DeJarnett from Hughson High School; Hannah Friesen, Hayley Randall and Georgina Reyes Solorio from Livingston High School; Jordan Aguiniga from Pitman High School; Gabriella Borges, Mary Frost, and Austin Silva from Turlock High School; and Denelle Flake, Jamie Herndon, Emily Kosky and Blake Love from Waterford High School.