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Chamber Ag Committee awards $35,000 in scholarships
Ag Luncheon 3
Turlock High School senior Rachel Day is congratulated by Vice Mayor of Turlock Matthew Jacob after receiving a scholarship from the Turlock Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

Hilmar High School senior David Edwards has devoted the past four years to his school’s FFA program, showing dairy cattle, competing in dairy products competitions and even serving as his chapter’s treasurer, all in hopes to achieve his goal of obtaining a degree in Agricultural Business from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo one day.

That hard work is paying off for Edwards as he received a $2,000 scholarship from the Turlock Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee on Tuesday during their annual luncheon at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds.

Edwards was one of 26 local students who received a scholarship during the 18th annual Ag Scholarship Luncheon, which awarded a total of $35,000 this year to its largest class of recipients yet.

“My career goal is to become a water resource policy lawyer,” Edwards said. “So, I’d like to thank the Turlock Chamber of Commerce for awarding me this scholarship.”

Since 2002, the Ag Committee has raised over $380,000 in donations from the community. To date, the Ag Scholarship Luncheon has provided $266,600 in scholarships to 314 students and has helped promote agricultural education at the Stanislaus County Fair.

Denair High School senior Bryson Prock will use the money to help him on his journey of receiving a degree in Agricultural Systems Management – a dream come true for someone who was raised on a dairy, he said.

Turlock Christian High School senior Alyss Myers is the president of her school’s FFA chapter, and was the only student from her school to receive a scholarship. She’s on the dairy judging team and shows dairy cattle, she said, and hopes to continue her journey in ag by obtaining a degree in Agricultural Education from California State University, Fresno.

Myers may eventually run into Livingston High School senior Jill Friesen on the Fresno campus, who also received a scholarship Tuesday.

“I was accepted to many schools that are out of state, but I chose to stay in the heart of agricultural land here in the Valley and go to Fresno,” Friesen said. “I would like to thank the Chamber for giving me this opportunity.”

The Ag Committee also awarded the third annual Jim Booth Memorial Scholarships in the amount of $2,500 each to Hughson High School senior Caleigh Martella and Turlock High School senior Rachel Day. The memorial scholarship was created after Booth, who was a former member of the Ag Committee since its inception in 2001, passed away in May 2015.

“For these scholarships, we chose students who exemplified some attributes that were most important to Jim: leadership skills, teamwork, follow through, self-confidence, motivation to succeed, community presence, honesty, integrity and morals,” said Ag Committee Co-Chair Bart Muller.

The keynote speaker at Tuesday’s luncheon was California FFA Foundation Board of Directors Past-Chair Louie A. Brown, Jr. – an attorney for Kahn, Soares & Conway, LLC, who specializes in representing clients before the California State Legislature. Brown has written laws and played a key role in negotiating legislation on topics like the agricultural commission, water and natural resources, and serves as Chair of the Cal Poly Agribusiness Department’s Advisory Council.

During his speech, Brown emphasized the importance of students continuing to work together as they progress through the agriculture industry – a skill that California lawmakers could work on, he said.

“California is like two different states, if not three,” Brown said. “In terms of the cost of living and economic progress, there are two different situations, yet we work as much as we possibly can in the California Legislature to pass issues and pass laws on a one-size-fits-all basis.

“We can start to see how some of those issues don’t always work and don’t always fit well.”

State Senator Anthony Canella and State Assemblyman Adam Gray have represented the San Joaquin Valley well, Brown pointed out, in that the pair still seems to be able to work together on issues that can help their home despite their partisan differences.

“I can tell you that those two individuals send a different message in California…they talk to each other, they work with each other and that something that, unfortunately, we don’t see in the State Capitol at all anymore,” Brown said.

Brown told the students to look forward to positive things that can come by working together, such as adjusting to the changes that are most likely coming to the ag industry, like mechanization and “technological advances unlike anything seen in past generations.” He also reminded them of the great opportunities the FFA has provided for them by pointing out that he, too, once donned the same blue jacket.

“I can tell you that I would not be here today before you had it not been for the Future Farmers of America. You can look across at any number of the activities FFA provides, and you will find a life skill,” Brown said. “To me, if you want to look for a positive direction for the future of what we have to look forward to, it’s the blue and gold jackets.”