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Urban Ag Academy Sparks Excitement for Careers in Agriculture

In the middle of Nebraska's largest city is a group of the state's most passionate agriculture students. Leaders of the program and DuPont Pioneer employees who support it are hoping that the programs implemented there will become models for other schools and students looking for career opportunities in agriculture.

The Bryan Urban Agriculture and Natural Resources Career Academy was started at Bryan High School in Omaha in 2012 after several years of planning. It is the only agriculture education program in the Omaha public schools system.

DuPont Pioneer leaders have been actively involved in helping the Academy develop curriculum and company representatives have served on the Agricultural Advisory Council to help implement, support, and advocate on behalf of the Bryan agricultural program. DuPont Pioneer has also provided financial support to the Academy through its Pioneer Giving program.

"We have a tremendous challenge ahead to feed a growing global population and ensure food security for everyone in our own country," said Michelle Gowdy, director of Community and Academic Relations at DuPont Pioneer. "We're going to need the best and brightest students from all backgrounds to help meet the challenge. Programs like the Academy are exciting students about agriculture and food production that may have never considered it before."

The Academy is designed for students beginning in their sophomore year. Students are interviewed their freshman year and those who are accepted take introduction to Agriculture, Food and Natural Resource, Agriculture English, Agriculture Geography and Agriculture Economics. Each year they will add 60 students into the program, and expect to have 180 students in the academy by the 2014-15 school year.

Students in the academy are learning about future career opportunities as well as getting hands-on experience that will benefit classmates and neighbors.

Academy students planted their first "farm" in two raised beds in front of the school in 2013. It took longer than they had hoped for the beds to be ready, so some of the students started the seeds in windowsills of their homes. These beds are just the start, though. Students at the Academy hope to build a greenhouse, classrooms and lab space to help them learn to feed themselves, their communities and the world. Crops grown in the greenhouse would provide produce for the Bryan High School culinary class and would be donated to the Food Bank for the backpack program. Bryan High School has 1,680 students, of which 80 percent are on the free and reduced lunch program.

Pioneer employees also helped organize a field trip for 10 students and nine teachers from Bryan High School to York County, Nebraska, to see firsthand modern agriculture production and explore their own opportunities.

The students started by visiting the Pioneer York seed production location where Darin Doerr, location manager, led a tour and told students about the careers that exist in the seed business. The students and teachers also learned about pork production, white corn production and cattle feeding. The day ended with a gathering of more than 130 people in a machine shed at Ficke Cattle Company near Pleasant Dale.

"We are producing seed here that is being planted across the globe. We need young people who have a passion for science and agriculture to come back to places like York County and use their knowledge and education at home," said Doerr in his presentation.

One in three career positions in Nebraska are related to agricultural, food and natural resources - many of them in science, technology, engineering and mathematics functions.

The Pioneer Community Giving program provides grants to communities where our employees and customers live and work, with each grant focused on that community's specific need. For more information about the Giving Program, visit www.pioneer.com, or contact your local Pioneer sales professional for information.