FVSU graduates honored as U.S. Department of Agriculture 1890 National Scholars

by Latasha Ford

Posted on Jun 23, 2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently recognized several graduating 1890 National Scholars, including Fort Valley State University students Asha Fears and Jaylan Horton, during a virtual commencement ceremony.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently recognized several graduating 1890 National Scholars, including Fort Valley State University students Asha Fears and Jaylan Horton, during a virtual commencement ceremony.

During a recent virtual commencement ceremony by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Congressman Sanford Bishop honored more than 20 graduating 1890 National Scholars. Fort Valley State University students Jaylan Horton and Asha Fears were among the honorees.

The USDA 1890 National Scholars Program was established in 1992 as part of the partnership between the USDA and the 19 1890 Land-Grant Universities. The program provides full tuition, fees, books, room and board to students pursuing degrees in agriculture, food, natural resource sciences or related academic disciplines.

While congratulating the students on their achievements, Perdue and Bishop also addressed the COVID-19 pandemic and George Floyd protests.

“You have the power now to make a positive change one community at a time,” Perdue told the students. “Things are hard right now. While it looks daunting, there is nothing you cannot do if you believe in yourself and your cause.”

Perdue added that with agriculture facing new challenges, he has faith in the younger generation to make this a better world. “You are the next generation of leaders in agriculture and in America,” he told the graduates.

Bishop echoed Perdue’s sentiments. He told the students that they are all graduating from thriving Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with degrees in fields that have often been underrepresented by African Americans.

“Your perspective matters and will change the landscape of agriculture, food science and any other career path that you may choose. Whatever you do, I am confident you will be great at it,” Bishop said.

Other dignitaries present to show their support were Dr. Ralph Noble, dean of FVSU’s College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology; Mike Beatty, director of USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement; Dr. Makolla Abdullah, Virginia State University president and chair of the 1890 Council of Presidents; and Congresswoman Alma Adams.

Appreciative of the recognition, Horton, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, said without the USDA 1890 Scholarship, he would have taken out additional loans and found a job to help pay for school. “It lifted a huge burden off my shoulders and my family’s shoulders. All I had to do was attend school and do my work,” he said.

The Hancock County, Georgia, native applied for the scholarship his senior year of high school but did not get it. He applied again his freshman year at FVSU after Karla Hollis, FVSU’s USDA liaison, encouraged him to keep trying. “I was happy to receive the scholarship. It gave me a sense of hope,” he said.

As a 2018 scholarship recipient, Horton interns with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in Gainesville, Florida. Growing up in a rural community, he commended the advantages of a paid summer internship and gaining valuable skills such as touring the import offices in Tampa and Miami.

Horton said his goal is to attend veterinary school. He plans to return to his alma mater in fall 2020 to pursue his master’s degree in animal science. Fears, who earned a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology, learned about the USDA 1890 Scholarship while attending Montgomery College in Maryland. After graduating with her associate degree in general studies in 2017, she decided to attend FVSU because it offers the only four-year veterinary technology program in Georgia.

The Washington, D.C., native said the scholarship was a blessing. “It not only helped me financially, but the internship opportunity was rewarding because they send you to a site that is related to your major,” she said.

As a 2018 scholarship recipient, Fears interns with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in Athens, Georgia. She serves as a histotechnician in the veterinary pathology department.

“It is extremely rewarding working alongside veterinary pathologists and learning about the disease processes in food animals and how it relates to my major,” Fears said. She aspires to become a veterinarian but first plans to take the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) to obtain her license as a registered veterinary technician.

She and Horton encourage students to apply for the USDA 1890 Scholarship. “If you don’t get it the first time, don’t give up. Keep trying,” Horton advised. He also recommends for students to find mentors. His support system included family, friends, Hollis, FVSU Outreach and Marketing Coordinator Fanisha Maze, Dr. Vernard Hodges of Critter Fixer Veterinary Hospital and his professors.

“If you are interested in agriculture or working for the government, the 1890 scholarship is the way to go,” Fears urged.

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