USDA/1890 National Scholars Program Guarantees Career after College

Thursday, October 15, 2009

USDA/1890Although she graduates three-and-a half years from now, SC State University freshman Kenyata Lawyer  is not concerned about  employment once she earns her degree in biology. The Hardeeville, S.C. native knows if she successfully completes the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program (NSP) requirements, she will secure a guaranteed position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“It’s such a relief to know that when I graduate, I will have a career.  Before I even start my career, I will have gained all the experience I need to perform well on the job,” said Lawyer, who will work as a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Service.

Lawyer is one of three SC State students, who is a recipient of the NSP, which awards students a full scholarship and other benefits.  Not only does the scholarship pay for tuition, room and board and the cost of books, but the scholarship program provides use of a laptop computer and printer. Perhaps the greatest benefit is on-the-job training that students receive as they matriculate through college.

For Lawyer and the other USDA Scholars (Sirrena Favors, a sophomore civil engineering major from Atlanta, Ga., and Russell Simon, a junior  accounting major from Santee, S.C.), the NSP has been an instrumental educational opportunity for dispelling the myths about agricultural careers.

“Persons who work for the USDA make a difference in the world around us. For example, there are professionals who inspect and grade our food, and without them we would not be able to eat wholesome food. USDA professionals are people who work behind the scenes to help enhance the quality of life for the American people,” said Lawyer.

Graduating high school seniors and rising college sophomores and juniors can apply for the program, if they gain acceptance to or are current students at an 1890 land-grant institution. Accepted students must study agriculture, food, natural resources sciences or other related disciplines.

In addition, applicants who are high school seniors must: be a U.S. citizen; hold a high school diploma or G.E.D certificate; have a cumulative high school GPA of 3.0 (or better) on a 4.0 scale; have a combined verbal/math score of at least 1,000 on the SAT or a composite score of at least 21 on the ACT; and submit a signed application with original signatures.

Rising college sophomores and juniors must: be a U.S. citizen; have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0; submit a current resume and an official transcript; submit two letters of recommendations; write and submit a 500-800 word essay; and submit a signed application with original signatures. All required materials must be postmarked by Feb. 1, 2010, and can be submitted to Jozette Young, USDA agricultural liaison officer at SC State University, P.O. Box 7246, Orangeburg, SC  29117. 

Eligible scholarship applicants are selected by USDA agencies based on their projected workforce needs and the applicants chosen career aspirations and interests. Each annual scholarship renewal is based upon satisfactory performance and normal progress towards the bachelor degree, said Young.

“For the most part, when people think of agriculture, they think of producing crops and raising livestock, but not the science and business aspects.  Agriculture is not just farming, but includes so many careers from farm-to-fork and from field-to-fabric,” said Young.  “Though not all USDA careers are supported by the scholarship program, careers in the field include researchers, biologists, accountants, loan officers, computer programmers and analysts, law enforcement agents, engineers, food scientists, statisticians, nutritionists and agricultural extension agents, to name a few,” continued Young.

According to Young, the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program was established in 1992 as part of the partnership between the USDA and the 18 universities in the 1890 Land-Grant System.  The goal of the program is to increase the number of minorities studying agriculture, food, natural resource sciences and other related disciplines.

Since its inception at SC State, the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program has awarded 27 scholarships to deserving high school seniors.  The NSP has prepared students to have careers as biologists, accountants, loan officers/managers, contract specialists and computer analysts with USDA agencies such as the Forest Service, Farm Service Agency, Rural Development and the Office of Chief Information Officer.

To obtain scholarship information, contact Jozette Young at (803) 536-8844 or Information is also available at The scholarship application and other supporting materials must be post marked by February 1, 2010.