The Highland Community College Agriculture Program has been awarded the Growing Agricultural Science Teachers (GAST) grant funded by the Illinois State Board of Education. Highland agriculture will receive $25,000 per year for three years to recruit, educate, and retain high school agriculture teachers.
The money will fund two new programs and tuition scholarships that engage both high school and college students in exploring a career in agricultural education. The Agricultural Education High School Internship Program will give high school students the opportunity to participate in a paid internship with their local high school agriculture teacher. Through this program, students will gain experience teaching lessons, managing science, mechanical, land, and greenhouse lab facilities. The money will also be used to fund FFA meetings and events alongside their local agriculture teacher and FFA advisor.
“Being able to offer paid internships and programs to both high school and college students allows Highland to do its part to counter the statewide agriculture teaching shortage through recruitment and training opportunities,” said Monica Pierce, a Highland Ag Instructor. “In addition, the tuition waiver scholarships remove financial barriers for students who want to learn more about a career in agricultural education.”
Pierce adds, “After taking this introductory course, students may find themselves well on their way to become a future Illinois agriculture teacher. Highland is excited to be a part of this statewide effort to recruit and retain highly qualified agriculture teachers in our region and state.”
The Highland Agriculture Ambassador Program will give Highland Community College students who have chosen a career path in agricultural education the opportunity to communicate with and inspire high school students to consider the same path. Ambassador activities may include visits to area high schools, workshops at FFA leadership events, campus tours, and academic advising.
Finally, the GAST grant will fund a number of tuition scholarships for students interested in taking AGRI 190: Introduction to Agricultural Education to learn more about a career in agricultural education.
For more on the agriculture program at Highland Community College, visit highland.edu or call 815-599-3637.