Clemson – Thirty-eight juniors and seniors took part in the annual South Carolina Commissioner’s School of Agriculture (SCCSA) last month. The summer academic program graduated its 500th student in this year’s class, which included 11th and 12th graders from South Carolina, Delaware and Georgia.

Fred West speaking to students.

Fred West, VP, Amick Farms

“It grew out of the idea that there are these Governor’s Schools for math, science and the arts, let’s do something for agriculture. The goal was to be the premier program for high school students that are interested in agriculture, and it truly is that,” said Katie Black, who served as program director from 2004 to 2016.

The SCCSA was started by the Clemson University Director of Cooperative Extension Tom Dobbins back in 2004, and has since grown under Black’s leadership. McCauley Frierson took over as director for the program’s milestone in student graduation this year.

“We tried not to do anything to eccentric for the transition period. We added some programing and some new speakers,” said Frierson. “We are always looking to improve. We don’t want to change anything too drastically because we want to keep it with the academic rigor of the program and high-caliber students.”

The program aims to not only provide students with the tools to go out and be successful in the agriculture industry, but also give them an inside look into the academic world, with around 80% of its graduates enrolling at Clemson.

“Before attending SCCSA I would have told you that I do not want to work in agriculture for the rest of my life because I thought that meant I would be stuck living and working on a farm like the one I grew up on. Being exposed to the unlimited opportunities in agriculture changed my way of thinking,” said former South Carolina 4-H Council President and SCCSA 2016 graduate Carey Herndon.

Commissioner's school participants.

Commissioner’s school participants.

“Through this program, I was able to see every aspect of the agricultural industry that intrigues me,” said 2016 graduate and current South Carolina FFA President Philip Rhodes. “On the emphasis day, the Natural Resources group went into the Clemson Experimental Forest and learned about the different land areas and how they were used before it became what it is now.”

Every year, a select group of participants are chosen to receive the Dobbins Founder Award based on their character, enthusiasm and involvement throughout the weeklong program. The 2017 Dobbins Founder Award winners are: Erica Wearing (Seneca), Christoph Tatgenhorst (Myrtle Beach), Will Tate (Fountain Inn), Nathaniel Hubbard (Seneca), Henry Gunter (Gilbert), Emery Tumbleston (Ravenel), Catherine Faulkner (Clover), and Josh Bobo (Belton).

This year’s participants included:

Austin Avent, Cameron
Monty Beam, Blackstock
Josh Bobo, Belton
Josh Brooks, Hartsville
Cooper Brown, Salley
Matthew Brownlee, Laurens
Hannah Burton, Clover
Mackenzie Campbell, Blacksburg
Sara Collins, New Castle, DE
Seth Conover, Sumter
Madelyn Corbin, Brunson
Carter Culp, Ila, GA
Julia Daniel, Nesmith
Loren Eubanks, Barnwell
Maggie Faciszewski, Bluffton
Catherine Faulkner, Clover
Meg Gaskins, Bishopville
Chelsea Glover, Edgefield
Henry Gunter, Gilbert
Carrie Herlong, Johnston
Nathaniel Hubbard, Seneca
Trey Kelley, Bishopville
Abbie Lewandowski, Sumter
Dallas Nivens, Clover
Payne Osborne, Bamberg
Madison Owens, Blythewood
Worth Player, Elliott
Jeana Faye Reynolds, Kingstree
Anna Sharp, Rock Hill
Madison Sharpe, North
Sarah Shore, Saluda
Will Tate, Fountain Inn
Christoph Tatgenhorst, Myrtle Beach
Madison Towe, Westminster
Emery Tumbleston, Ravenel
Matthew Urbaniak, Patrick
Erica Wearing, Seneca
Samantha Worthen, Dalzell