Four students of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) Department of Agriculture were recently named recipients of the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program Scholarship, according to a news release.

Recipients are Jessica Harston, a senior major of plant and soil science; Shederick White, a junior major of agricultural economics; Elliott McElroy, a sophomore major of agricultural business; and Kylan Williams, a sophomore major of agronomy.

The students will be able to complete their degrees debt-free and obtain work experience at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies, according to a news release.

The USDA program awards scholarships to students attending the nation’s 19 historically black land-grant universities. The scholarship will cover the students’ full annual tuition, room and board, books and fees at UAPB.

The 1890 National Scholars receive experience interning at USDA agencies and are required to compete for USDA employment immediately after graduation.

Following her graduation in May 2019, Harston was scheduled to start a job as a soil conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Harrisburg.

White will serve as an administrative intern to an assistant state conservationist at the Jimmy Carter Plant Materials Center in Americus, Georgia.

McElroy will work with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in Washington, D.C., during the summers over the course of his education.

Williams will start an internship with NRCS.

Harston first heard about the scholarship from former program alumni who touted the benefits of debt-free education and experience working with a federal agency, as well as the helpfulness of UAPB’s USDA 1890 Liaison office.

“It sounded like a great opportunity, so I applied,” she said. “I am honored to be a National Scholar because the program provides so many helpful resources and opportunities – it’s like no other scholarship I know of.”

Throughout her undergraduate education, Harston interned as a soil conservationist trainee for USDA-NRCS offices in Woodruff, White and Monroe Counties. As she embarks on a career with NRCS, she continues a family legacy, as three of her uncles are retired NRCS employees, according to the news release.

McElroy said being accepted as an 1890 National Scholar is an honor.

“It’s a privilege to be gaining such an experience,” he said. “I am ecstatic about the journey I am going to embark upon. This is an opportunity not many people get to have, and I feel blessed.”

McElroy said he decided to apply to the program after considering the ways it could help him pursue a career in agricultural business. He felt he could gain a wide range of essential skills that will eventually help him in the workplace.

During his internship with FAS, McElroy aims to broaden his knowledge of agricultural sectors both in the U.S. and abroad.

Williams said he hopes to gain new skills and knowledge in agriculture from his internship for NRCS. He is interested in witnessing firsthand how the USDA works to serve the nation’s farmers.

“I decided to apply to the 1890 National Scholars Program, because at the time, I didn’t have any scholarships and I needed a way to pay for school,” Williams said. “I started researching the program and immediately applied when I saw one of the benefits was an internship every summer.”

During his education at UAPB, Williams was excited to learn that career opportunities in agriculture are not just limited to farming. After he graduates, he hopes to work as a soil conservationist for the USDA.

White said he looks forward to the chance to gain more effective leadership skills working closely with area and state conservationists in Georgia.

“Being awarded this scholarship has taught me to focus on the importance of my education, which gives me a chance to fulfill my career goals,” he said. “I hope to one day be a blessing to others in the community, just as I was blessed to receive this scholarship with my financial needs.”

The USDA/1890 National Scholars Program is intended for high school seniors entering their freshman year of college and rising college sophomores and juniors. Eligible students must major in agriculture or related sciences, which include agronomy, animal sciences, botany, food sciences and technology, forestry, home economics and nutrition, horticulture, natural resources management, soil conservation, farm and range management, pre-veterinary medicine and computer science.

According to the USDA website, the program’s goal is to increase the number of minority students studying agriculture, food, natural resource sciences and related disciplines. All USDA/1890 National Scholars are required to compete for appropriate employment immediately after graduation and, if selected, commit to at least one year of service to USDA for each year of financial assistance provided.