Seven Arkansas teens were among the 19 junior and senior high school students from eight states who spent two weeks at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. They were part of the AgDiscovery residential career exploration program.


Participants and hometowns included Briana Jackson, Cedar Hill, Texas: Rikkiya Britten, Wabbaseka; Amanda “Ryan” Moore, San Antonio, Texas; Allison O’Neal, Madera, Calif.; Naija Batts, Baltimore, Md.; Regan Perry, Ottawa, Kan.; Anastasia Quiney, Nashville, Ark.; Marcy Palmer, South Haven, Kan.; Reagan Dehn, Topeka, Kan.; Ayegbaroju Abidemi, Greenwood, Miss., Michelle Waters, Baltimore, Md.; Joaquin White, Austin, Texas; Shamar Debnam, Helena; Scotlin Collins, West Helena; Joseph Hayes, Mansura, La.; Santiago Avila, Lake Village; Joshua Black, Guyton, Ga.; Jaylon Robinson, West Helena; and Travarus Shead, Wilmar.


Daytime hours were spent interacting with U.S. Department of Agriculture professionals at their respective work places and with UAPB professors as teens learned about careers with USDA and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the college courses necessary to qualify for those careers.


AgDiscovery participants learned about diseases in migratory birds and helped capture and band geese with a wildlife biologist and Arkansas Game and Fish personnel. They learned archery at the Delta Rivers Nature Center and went canoeing on the Arkansas River.


They visited the Little Rock Air Force Base to learn about wildlife management at airports and the Simon Bros. Dairy at Conway to learn how milk is prepared for market and regulations farmers follow to insure its safety.


At the Keo Fish Farm, the teens, ages 14 to 17, learned of regulations fish farmers must follow in farming, and they observed an electroshocking demonstration and gram staining to learn about fish diseases and pathology while at the UAPB Aquaculture Research Station.


They toured the Clinton Presidential Library and Heifer Village headquarters at Little Rock. They spent a night at the Heifer Education Ranch at Perryville, where they learned about world hunger and gained a new appreciation for life in the United States.


“This is my seventh year as coordinator of the UAPB APHIS-AgDiscovery program,” said Willie Columbus, School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences research assistant, educational outreach coordinator. “Every year, I have had a group of kids so wonderful that I think it cannot possibility get any better. This year was no exception.


“What was unique this year is this is the first time a majority of students were from out of state,” Columbus said. “For many of them it was their first trip to Arkansas or to visit the South. In addition to keeping them safe and teaching them about careers in agriculture, we set out to ensure that they had an enjoyable, eye-opening experience that they would carry with them for life. I truly believe we accomplished that goal.”


Students apply online for AgDiscovery, and this year they had their choice of 22 host universities. Participants are selected by APHIS.


For more information about AgDiscovery, visit www.aphis.usda.gov/agdiscovery. UAPB has been one of the host universities since 2008 and was the first university west of the Mississippi to host AgDiscovery.


The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.


— Carol Sanders is a writer/editor at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.