Expo funds scholarships for college ag students

Riane Towery of Salem is one of the WVAA scholarship winners for 2014.

That the Willamette Valley Ag Association’s scholarship winners are bright and focused is a given, but Riane Towery of Salem, one of the five 2014 recipients, takes those qualities to a higher level.

Towery, 21, is a senior this year in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University. She shows her academic prowess with a 3.98 grade-point average and her focus with a double-major in horticulture and leadership. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in agricultural education and become a high school ag teacher and FFA adviser.

This year, five recipients were awarded $1,500 apiece toward their college educations. Besides Towery, the other WVAA scholarship award winners for 2014 are Jaimee Brentano of Corvallis, a senior in ag education; Justin Gutierrez of Heppner, a senior in agriculture; Kylee Jensen of Pilot Rock, a senior in agriculture; and Rebecca Thomas of Cornelius, a senior in agriculture. All attend OSU.

Towery said the entire amount “goes directly to my tuition, so I end up with less college debt.”

She said she raised sheep when she was in the fifth grade as part of 4-H and continued in her ag pursuits through her high school years at Silverton High, where her father is an ag teacher.

The WVAA scholarships are given out annually at the Willamette Valley Ag Expo. The Expo is the largest event put on by her group, WVAA manager Jill Ingalls said. It was established to support students pursuing a career in agriculture, she said.

A percentage of the proceeds from the Willamette Valley Ag Expo fund the scholarship program.

This year, Ingalls said the WVAA board of directors decided to bring management of the scholarship program in-house. The board will connect directly with ag colleges and make educators aware of the funds that are available — about $1,000 to $2,000 for each of five to seven students.

Under the WVAA board’s new plan, which does not require a federal student aid application from students or financial need as a primary consideration, awards would go to students who are on agricultural production-based career paths, Ingalls said.

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