The beginning of summer is a favorite time of mine – not necessarily for the warm weather and long days (although I enjoy that) but for the opportunity to see and welcome home our ag kids. Sonoma County does a great job of nurturing and growing amazing young people that have a passion and the smarts to take on 2-year college, 4-year college and trade school curriculum.
During the Farm Bureau Foundation of Sonoma County’s interviews, I had a chance to see some of these students as they entered or exited the interviews. Most had an air of confidence rarely found in young adults in their early years of college. They can easily converse with interview panels or adults they hardly know. When asked about their future, they do not hesitate to share their plans – because they know through their hard work and perseverance their dreams will become realities.
I am so proud of the foundation that the Farm Bureau family and all our members have built over the last several years with the scholarship program. 45 students receive $158,650 in scholarships in this year’s program. (You can see all the winners in the center spread of this publication.) It is hard to believe that in 2012 the amount available was only $30,000. Boy have we grown!
In addition to these scholarships, Farm Bureau also assists the Wilson Artisan Wineries with their scholarship program that awarded $39,000 to 24 children of vineyard employees throughout the county. The Wilson family does not limit their generosity to students working for their employees, but rather the “Children of Vineyard Workers Scholarship” program offers a $500 to $2500 award to children of Sonoma County vineyard workers. What a unique way of giving back to the community.
As part of the scholarship application process, all participating students are required to submit a personal statement that gives the student a platform to discuss their family, interests, accomplishments and some of the bumps and hurdles they have faced already in their relatively young lives.
The approach to this requirement of the application is varied. Some students approach it as if they are writing an outline of accomplishments while others pen as if they are preparing their life map. Many dig deep and share their personal stories – their love of family and their loss of family; their successes and failures and recognition for those people who influenced them and an explanation for those who disappointed them.
It is exciting to see that we are helping many students who are the first in their family to go to college. The pride that these students have in their essays is evident. What an accomplishment for these students, their parents and that 4-H leader or FFA advisor who guided them to a point of deciding that an agriculture career was what they wanted to pursue.
I am joyed with what our community, our members and our donors have done for so many of our local students and our future leaders. Now, if we can just find a way to get these stars to come back to Sonoma County and work locally in our industry!