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Alfa honors ‘home grown’ scholars

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Auburn University student and scholarship recipient Richelle Thomas of Highland Home was honored at the Alabama Farmers Federation 2015 Scholarship Recipients Luncheon Aug. 22 at the Ham Wilson Arena in Auburn. Thomas graduated from Luverne High School and is studying food science. The $1,750 scholarship was funded by the Crenshaw County Farmers Federation and the Federation’s Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation. From left are Federation President Jimmy Parnell, Thomas, Crenshaw County Farmers Federation President Linda Pierce and Federation Southeast Region Vice President George Jeffcoat.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Auburn University student and scholarship recipient Richelle Thomas of Highland Home was honored at the Alabama Farmers Federation 2015 Scholarship Recipients Luncheon Aug. 22 at the Ham Wilson Arena in Auburn. Thomas graduated from Luverne High School and is studying food science. The $1,750 scholarship was funded by the Crenshaw County Farmers Federation and the Federation’s Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation. From left are Federation President Jimmy Parnell, Thomas, Crenshaw County Farmers Federation President Linda Pierce and Federation Southeast Region Vice President George Jeffcoat.

AUBURN — Current and future agricultural leaders came together on the campus of Auburn University (AU) Aug. 22 as county Farmers Federations presented scholarships to 72 students majoring in agriculture and forestry.

Crenshaw County Farmers Federation President Linda Pierce addressed the students on behalf of 54 counties awarding scholarships through the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation (AFAF).

“Each county in the great state of Alabama has the opportunity of funding scholarships thanks to the encouragement and assistance of the Alabama Farmers Federation,” said Pierce, who taught high school biology, anatomy and physiology for 27 years. “It means we are helping the student and their families with merit-based assistance to help pay for college — not just any student or any family, but one from our own county — a homegrown recipient.”

The AFAF, with support from the Federation and Alfa Insurance, provided $1,250 in matching funds for every county Federation that contributed $500 toward a scholarship. Richelle Thomas, a senior in food science from Highland Home, earned the $1,750 scholarship from Crenshaw County.

“I’m so thankful,” said Thomas. “It’s taken so much pressure off me, so I can focus on being more involved here at Auburn, studying harder and hopefully being able to give back once I graduate.”

Thomas hopes to use her degree to develop preservation methods that extend the shelf life of food to meet the needs of a growing world population.

Pierce said Thomas’ career goals illustrate the value of the AFAF scholarship program.

“College is not free, but some investments are beyond calculation,” she said. “These scholarship recipients are among those who will assume the greatest challenges of the 21st century, from energy to food supply to health care. For a cause this big, no gift is too small.”

The Lawrence County Farmers Federation scholarship was exactly what Trevor Lee of Moulton needed to reach his goal of having his tuition fully paid.

“It means more than anyone can ever know,” said the junior in poultry production. “This is truly a blessing. My goal was to earn scholarships so I wouldn’t have to work during college. This allows me to focus on my school instead of being distracted.”

Lee transferred to Auburn from Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, where he enrolled in the 2+2 program.

The College of Agriculture established the program so poultry science students could complete core classes close to home before moving to the AU campus for specialized education.

Lawrence County Farmers Federation President Allen Pickens said it was encouraging to visit with Lee and other students during the luncheon at Ham Wilson Arena.

“Listening to Trevor and his enthusiasm means we’ve helped someone, so they can worry about their studies instead of trying to have to work,” Pickens said. “It shows that the counties are concerned about the youth who are willing to get into agriculture.”

In addition to 54 students who received AFAF scholarships, the luncheon recognized 18 students who received separate scholarships from the Baldwin, Dale, Houston, Lee, Madison, Montgomery, Randolph and Shelby county Farmers Federations. Additional county recipients were recognized at local meetings. Altogether, 140 students received scholarship assistance from the AFAF or a county Farmers Federation in 2015.