Celebrate agricultural education on March 15

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Celebrate the third annual National Teach Agriculture Day (NTAD) on March 15 with the University of Illinois's award- winning agricultural education program. NTAD is an opportunity to inform people about agricultural education and its importance to the future of agriculture, said Amanda Corban, a junior in agricultural education.

For the past few months, U of I agricultural education students have been planning events and activities leading up to NTAD. They recently received one of 12 NTAD grants to offset the costs of their NTAD promotional efforts. This is the second year they have received the grant. Last year the club was also recognized as the Teach Ag Day Collegiate Contest winner for the creativity and effectiveness of their NTAD campaign. This year they hope their campaign tops the entries once again.

"We've won it every year it's existed," Corban said. "We're a land-grant institution. Agricultural education is why we're here so we might as well let people know about it."

Jake Ralph, a junior in agricultural education, said the agricultural education students felt they needed to make this year's NTAD celebration even better to meet their high expectations.

"We feel that by being a part of the U of I it is our duty to make agricultural education an important issue," Ralph said.

Last year, the students sent thank-you notes to every high-school agriculture teacher in Illinois, 408 total. This year they plan to send letters to junior college agricultural educators as well, a total of 511.

"Their job is almost immeasurable because it is very time consuming to get students involved. They live their job," Ralph said. "It's great, and that's what we plan to do as educators so we appreciate it even more."

This year, the agricultural education program's spring trip will be integrated with NTAG. Students will have the opportunity to experience a variety of agricultural education programs by visiting high-school agriculture programs in Kentucky on March 15. The students hope they will bring back new ideas to implement in their own classrooms one day.

"We will have the opportunity to see specialty agricultural programs," Corban said. "We are broadening our horizons this year to see how agricultural education programs operate outside Illinois."

These students plan to publicize NTAD in their local newspapers and agricultural trade publications across the state. In addition, they will be featured on broadcast news stations. In the past, they have appeared on RFD radio, WYXY radio and others.

"Our purpose is to get out there and show what is being done in agricultural education and how it truly affects everyone because it is the foundation of the industry today," Ralph said.

These students will also promote NTAD on their individual Facebook pages. They plan to change their profile picture to the NTAD logo to create more awareness online.

Ralph said promoting NTAD is important because many people do not realize the jobs and careers available in agricultural education continue to grow even in this economy. Ralph said he decided to attend the U of I after witnessing the quality of the agricultural education program's teachers firsthand in his high-school agriculture program. Now, three years later, he knows he chose the right career path.

"The fact that there are always jobs available creates peace of mind," Ralph said. "The fact that it is something I love to do makes it even better."



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