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June 2020: Farm Byline

Outstanding young people give us hope

by Al Gustin


“Someone I would trust in every situation. Dependable, hard-working, reliable.”

That description was included in a letter of recommendation for a high school senior applying for a college scholarship. I was fortunate in being asked to judge those scholarship applications, from about 20 seniors seeking financial aid through several scholarships offered by one of the state’s major agricultural organizations.

The scholarship applications listing the students’ accomplishments and goals were all impressive. But I found the letters of recommendation especially revealing. Here are some of the comments made in those letters. “Well-organized, passionate and dependable.” “Her work ethic and determination will push her to succeed in everything she undertakes.” “Responsible beyond his years and looked to for leadership.” “Outstanding student leader and citizen.”

One of the applicants was referred to as “a born leader.” And I wondered, were these seniors born with leadership qualities, or were those qualities developed by their environment – family, school, church?
Another of the letter writers said, “Has learned a lot of her responsibility by working on the family farm.” And another said, “Is responsible for a tremendous amount of work to help care for the crops and livestock. This upbringing is what gives him the advantage when it comes to life.”

And I wondered, would these high school seniors be just as hardworking, dependable and outstanding if they were raised in a city? Does a farm or ranch offer more opportunities to teach responsibility, especially responsibility at an early age? Many people believe that.

But a retired county extension agent, who spent decades working with city and rural youth, isn’t so sure. She says there are outstanding, responsible young people in town, too – young people with a good work ethic and leadership qualities. Much, she says, depends on their family and how they were raised.

Regardless, we are reassured, because while this year’s graduation will be like no other, every graduating class has individuals who are responsible, hardworking and ready to lead.

Al Gustin is a retired farm broadcaster, active rancher and a member of Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative.