By Bradford Sherman
Even more high School students enjoyed a day of learning about agricultural careers when the Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience (YCLE) Day organized by the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Center for Cooperatives returned to The Ohio State University South Centers in October.
More than 40 students from nearby Piketon High School and Pike Christian Academy, and Scioto-county based Lucasville Valley and Green high schools, visited South Centers on October 6 to learn about agricultural research that is conducted at the campus, experience hands-on learning opportunities in agricultural science, and visit a career fair where they spoke with representatives from local cooperatives.
“Students were able to take a deeper dive into the world of aquaponics, learn about natural sugars in fruit, extract DNA from strawberries, test the quality of soil, understand operations of a fish hatchery, and tour the farm,” explained Center for Cooperatives Program Specialist and event organizer Melissa Whitt.
Another interesting aspect to the event, according to Whitt, was that students had the chance to connect with Ohio cooperative business leaders during the Cooperative Career Fair and discovered numerous career opportunities available to them upon high school graduation in the cooperative sector.
Cooperatives Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), United Producers Inc. (UPI), Adams Rural Electric, South Central Power, Atomic Credit Union, Farm Credit MidAmerica and MEP, shared how students can launch careers at their cooperatives. Representatives from OSU South Centers shared information about education pathways in agriculture and summer employment opportunities for students.
The YCLE program, designed to help students learn about agricultural careers and achievable paths to higher education with an emphasis on the cooperative business model because cooperatives play an important role in the agricultural supply chain, is made possible through funding from the Southern Ohio Agricultural and Community Development Foundation (SOACDF).
The foundation, which sunset in 2021, served 22 counties, including Pike and Adams, within the Southern Ohio Appalachian region. The $75,000 grant from SOACDF is expected to fund additional YCLE activities for Appalachian high school students through 2026.
This year’s event built on the foundation laid by first-ever YCLE held on the Columbus campus of The Ohio State University in 2019 via pilot funding provided by the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR SARE) program of USDA, as well as an online resource for educators available at go.osu.edu/ycle.