By Jade Jacobo
Web Content Contributor
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Texas State University’s new agriculture program, LEADING, a grant of $2.9 million. The program (Leading and Enhancing Agricultural Development in the Next Generation) is meant to support underrepresented Hispanic students that are interested in pursuing careers in the food, agricultural, natural resources and human sciences (FANH) fields of work. Merritt Drewery, LEADING project director at Texas State, is working closely with professors from Texas A&M Kingsville, New Mexico State University and the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez to ensure that this program is accessible to as many students as possible.
LEADING is a program in which agricultural science students will travel to different USDA facilities around the country, and the students will have an opportunity to participate in hands-on research. When speaking about the summer internships, Drewery mentioned that all participants are ensured a summer internship in order for the students to fully understand the field of work that they are pursuing. The participants will also be given the opportunity to choose which agency they would like to intern with, as the program director wants to ensure that the students are comfortable and content with the environment that they will be working in. Texas State will be using a portion of the grant money to cover all travel, relocation, and housing costs for the participants. Drewery stated that she wants to remove all financial barriers that could potentially keep an interested student from participating in the program.
When speaking about how LEADING became established, Drewery explained that she created the new program in order to assist first-generation students. Drewery was also a first-generation student, and she is very familiar with the lost and unsure feeling that often discourages first-gen students. FANH can be a very competitive field of work, and the program aims to give the students the hands-on experience that will motivate and inspire them to continue in pursuit of their degree. Drewery, and professors from other universities involved in the project, will be working closely with the students to make certain that each participant is achieving their intended goal in working with the program.
One of the unique aspects of this program is that the professors plan on placing Spanish-speaking students to work with non-Spanish speaking students. This is in hopes of expanding findings in their research, as well as assist the students in becoming more comfortable understanding and speaking in their non-native language. Being bilingual is very beneficial when working in different FANH fields of study and work.
LEADING is 5-year project aiming to work with first-generation upperclassmen, but all students (even students at San Marcos High School) that are interested in the program are encouraged to apply. Applications will open in August, and 10-12 students will be admitted into the program. Be sure to check out the LEADING program Instagram for more information on how to apply and application deadlines.
Written by: kadencemakenna