ALBANY -- Seven Future Farmers of America saw their love of agriculture grow into $500 checks from the Exchange Club of Albany on Friday.
"The scholarships go to high school seniors who show livestock at our fair. They had to submit applications with their grades and write an essay," said Jerry Clack, co-chair of the livestock association. "We've been giving the scholarship for several years. David Hewett, a retired professor from Darton (College), helps us out with judging and grades our applicants every year."
The seven winners this year were: Kaley Clark, Keaton Griner, Kacey Merritt, Tye Wynn, and Tyler Powell, all of Colquitt County; Bradley Tucker of Irwin County, and Chelsea Brown of Thomas County.
The students showed a variety of livestock, such as hogs and steers, at the Exchange Club Fair last October. They plan to use their money to help pay educational bills at such institutions as Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Thomas University and Georgia Southwestern State University.
Their chosen career paths range from the farming occupations of agricultural engineering and veterinary to as far from farming as teaching history and being a physician's assistant.
In acceptance speeches before more than 100 club members, parents and other guests the students remarked about their pride for being honored by the club.
Privileged, honored and thankful were the words the students used to describe their feelings on to receiving the scholarships.
Asked to repeat a speech she gave as vice president of the Georgia FFA, Griner probably revealed the character and the attachment of all the scholarship recipients when she quoted the organization's creed:
"I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds -- achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years."
Typical of the parents in attendance, Becky Powell not only said she was proud of her son, but heaped praise on the Exchange Club and its fair.
"His winning the scholarship and the prizes at the fair are a highlight of a mother's life," Powell said. "When he came here in the eighth-grade, he won for showmanship and now he won the scholarship. This fair is always the one every student gets excited about. It is the best."
In an additional gift the club donated $500 to the Lily Pad Sane Center, a shelter for sexual and child abuse victims.