CLEMSON — The South Carolina Commissioner’s School for Agriculture (SCCSA) marked its 10th anniversary last week by graduating a cohort of 38 high school students from across the nation, bringing its alumni total to 351 since its inception.

“The goal of the school is to expose high achieving high school students to the array of career and educational opportunities in the agricultural, natural resources and life sciences,” said Katie Black, director of the school. “And if they leave here with their blood running Clemson orange, then that’s great, too.”

This year’s group participated in activities including stream assessment; product development; agricultural mechanization and business and turfgrass science; and a discussion competition designed to apply basic reasoning, research and collaboration skills to solve such problems as what role if any the agricultural industry should play in addressing health and obesity issues.

“We also hope that the participants begin to build a professional network that they can follow throughout their careers,” said Black.

“One of the things that has been great for me is branching out and meeting new people,” said Brooke Smith, a rising junior at Belton-Honea Path High School. “It’s also been great to see the behind the scenes stuff associated with the forestry and wildlife industries.”

The Commissioner’s School for Agriculture was started by Clemson University agricultural division chairman Thomas Dobbins and is based on similar programs across the nation.

“South Carolina is one of the few states where the program has survived dwindling budgets,” said Dobbins. “The fact that SCCSA is thriving is a testament to South Carolina’s commitment to the agricultural, natural resources and life science industries. They are huge industries in this state, and SCCSA and Clemson are determined to produce the next generation of leaders in those industries.”

Students have come from 45 South Carolina counties and Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia. Alumni currently hold leadership positions in agriculture, animal and veterinary science, wildlife biology and natural resources and packaging science, and many are pursuing graduate degrees.

“The 2013 class is a very outstanding group,” said S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers. “Their academic standing says to me that agribusiness is attracting the best and brightest of today's young people. It's always rewarding for me to see these students get excited about agriculture.”

The 2013 SCCSA Dobbins Founders Award recipients are Karson Barrett of Edgefield, Strom Thurmond High School; Brandon Myers of Lexington, Pelion High School; Hunter Morton of Seneca, Pendleton High School; Anna Scott of Lancaster, Lancaster High School; Corey Sease of Ehrhardt, Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School; Calum Henderson of Lancaster, The Crooked House School; Anna Catherine Wayne of McBee, McBee High School.

The award is chosen by counselors and staff based on student performance and enthusiasm during the weeklong school.

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