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Southeast Produce Council invests in its future

The Southeast Produce Council has been very busy for the last few years working to build its organization by investing in what it believes is its greatest asset: recognizing and promoting youth.

The council has committed its efforts in the form of several scholarship programs for SPC members and to major land grant universities in the Southeast.SPCStarsStudentsBlair Davis of the University of Florida, David Gianino of the University of Georgia and Savannah Scheick of the University of Florida at the 2013 Southern Exposure in Orlando, FL.

The first program initiated by the council was the SPC Member Scholarship Program, which was started in the early years of the organization.

“I actually remember when we would sell lottery tickets to fund this program at all of our events and divide it with the winner to fund the program,” said David Sherrod, chairman of community outreach and vice president of the SPC. “The program has grown each year, along with the council, and has become one of the biggest member services that we provide our membership.”

The board of directors has always funded this program to take care of all the applicants. It is now a budgeted item for the council and one that is taken very seriously in the planning process to keep investing in this program.

To be eligible, an applicant needs to be a member in good standing or a child or grandchild of a member in good standing. The person will need to be a full-time student who is currently enrolled in an accredited college or university.

Nearly 100 scholarships have been awarded to date and 20 more will be given out this year. The deadline for applicants is May 31.

The next scholarship program offered by the council is the James & Theresa Nolan Family Foundation Scholarship. This scholarship is funded 100 percent by the Nolan Foundation and is given to children of SPC members entering college. The students are required to submit an essay on personal experiences on how they handled certain ethical situations in their lives.

“This is our third year, and we have been so fortunate to be the benefactor of this great gift from the Nolan family,” said SPC President Andrew Scott. “Theresa is part of our SPC family, and we are so happy she chose us and the [New England Produce Council] to share this great gift with our children.”

The deadline to submit the Nolan Family application and essay is July 1 of every year.

The council’s most recent scholarship program was highlighted at this year’s Southern Exposure food show. The Southeast Top Agricultural Recruit Scholarship, known as the STARS program, was introduced in 2012, and the recipients attended the food show as honored guests.

The program is set up for college juniors or seniors entering the work force within the next year or two. It requires a minimum GPA of 3.25 and a major in an agriculture field of study at specific Southeast land grant universities.

The University of Florida and the University of Georgia were the first two universities chosen to offer the STARS scholarships. Two students from each school were chosen by the school’s review boards to receive the awards based on the council’s criteria. The 2012-13 recipients were Savannah Scheick, Blair Davis, Anna McIntyre and David Gianino.

Each student received a $2,500 scholarship to use for the 2012-13 school year, and they then were invited to attend the Southern Exposure food show in Orlando, FL.

The students attended all field tours, workshops and events throughout the weekend. They also attended the food show and were able to network with all the attendees. The council provided each student with personalized business cards with QR scan codes that linked to their bios and résumés on the council’s website.

“We were so happy to provide these young student professionals a platform to try to obtain employment with our STARS program,” said Mr. Sherrod. “We are also pleased to be working with these great universities to help us find such talented young people to hopefully enter into our industry. We have already added Louisiana State University to the program, and we are working to add another school by the end of the year.”

The mission of the Southeast Produce Council is to be the premier resource for produce education and information that can provide a platform to build professional relationships based on trust, integrity and passion.

These programs drive home that mission by providing educational opportunities to today’s youth and tomorrow’s future. The SPC offers these programs on behalf of our members, and the council thanks each one of them for all their continued support.