When asked the proverbial question, “How did I spend my summer vacation,” Tehaven McCraney of Helena-West Helena can respond like only a few others.

When asked the proverbial question, “How did I spend my summer vacation,” Tehaven McCraney of Helena-West Helena can respond like only a few others.

Banding geese, extracting strawberry DNA and dissecting fish are only a few of the things he did during the 2015 AgDiscovery Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

            McCraney, who attends KIPP Delta Collegiate High School, was one of 18 students from Tennessee, Illinois, Georgia, Mississippi and Arkansas who spent two weeks living on the UAPB campus interacting with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) professionals and university professors. The teens, ages 14-16, visited UAPB’s Aquaculture Research Station, a working dairy and got a taste of life in developing countries through an overnight stay at the Global Gateway Project International in Perryville.

            The students also toured the Arkansas State Vet Tech School in Beebe and visited the Little Rock Air Force Base where they learned about wildlife management at airports. They also toured the Clinton Presidential Library, the Heifer Village Little Rock campus and the Delta River Nature Center.

            “This year’s students had an immediate impact on me. I was amazed at how knowledgeable they were about agriculture. This was usually not the case in years past,” said Willie Columbus, educational outreach and AgDiscovery coordinator. “Most of this year’s students either lived on a farm, owned a farm animal or helped their parents raise livestock.

They are an exceptional group – smart, attentive, energetic. I saw a room full of future agriculture professionals.”

            With so many USDA scientists poised for retirement, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) teamed up with selected universities to sponsor AgDiscovery where teens learn about careers with USDA and APHIS and the college courses necessary to qualify for those careers. There is no charge for the two-week program, but participants are responsible for transportation to and from campus.

            For more information about AgDiscovery, visit www.aphis.usda.gov/agdiscovery. UAPB has been one of the host universities since 2008 and was the first university west of the Mississippi to host AgDiscovery.