Thursday, January 31, 2013

International Interest Leads to Great Experiences for Agricultural Education Student!

Allison and a toucan at
an aviary/gardens park

Allison Hoover spent her last day in Costa Rica butchering chickens.

After spending six weeks in the Spanish-speaking country, Allison was ready to return home and speak English. However, she had one last experience waiting for her: processing chickens with a group of seventh graders and seniors at a technical high school with its own farm facilities. The school’s chickens were raised, butchered, processed, and eventually sold to the school cafeteria.

“It was exciting to see their energy for being engaged,” Allison said about watching the students participate and eventually helping them in their endeavors.

The agricultural and Extension education junior was acknowledged recently with the W. LaMarr Kopp International Achievement Award, which recognizes Penn State students, faculty, and staff who exhibit outstanding leadership in international education, service, and research.  
Allison soon before beheading a chicken,
with the 7th graders who helped with the
process as part of their introductory animal
production course in the background.

Allison is interested in many different cultures and serving internationally. During the summer of 2012, she traveled to Costa Rica for six weeks. For the first four weeks, she was involved in the Spanish for the Agricultural Sciences Immersion Experience, which gave several Penn State students the chance to work with high school agriculture programs and learn about Costa Rica’s agriculture industry. Allison stayed an additional two weeks with an International Agriculture Summer Research grant to conduct research for her undergraduate thesis.

Allison noted that agriculture has lent to a growth in the Costa Rican economy. The growth is translated into the high school curriculum.

 “Agriculture is emphasized in Costa Rican programs,” she said. “A lot of students are going back to their family farms in the region we were in, known as the Central Valley. There are many coffee and sugar cane farms there, as well as dairies.

“It was encouraging to hear Costa Ricans recognize and be proud of the fact that Costa Rica is a very agriculturally-oriented country. This is reflected in the basic agriculture courses that all students had to take at the schools I visited.”

A banana train, the method of transporting banana
bunches from the plantation site to the processing
site at EARTH University. The school's focus is
sustainable tropical agriculture.
Her awareness of the importance of international agriculture grew through her attendance at the World Food Prize and Borlaug Dialogue in the fall of 2011. Because of her interest in global competency, she received an award from the National FFA Organization to travel to Iowa for the event, which centered on investing in youth to alleviate global hunger. This focus helped Allison realize the need for agricultural education and motivated her to continue pursuing her interest of understanding cultures and agriculture around the world.

“I strongly believe in the concept of global competency,” Allison said. “We should all be interested in being part of a global population. There are so many cultures, languages, and systems, and we should have a genuine interest in them.

“Diversifying our world view can’t truly be done without traveling. To understand who you are, travel.”

Allison is enrolled in the production option of Agricultural and Extension Education and is minoring in International Agriculture, Spanish, and Sustainability Leadership. She plans to pursue a career that allows her to serve others through education, have a family and a small farm, and travel often. 

By: Elise Brown, 
Student Blogger

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