The Holsteins in the heifer barn across the street from Beaver Stadium are tolerant of new people. They are happy to have their big heads scratched, and will look at you soulfully with their large, dark eyes.
Richard Novak seldom gets a chance to bond with livestock. The 17-year-old Keystone Oaks student is from the Pittsburgh area. Cattle are not commonplace there.
But that is part of what drew him to spend a summer in Centre County. He chose to apply to the Governor’s School for Agricultural Sciences.
“I thought that would be a good way to widen my exposure,” said Novak, who plans to return to Penn State in his quest to become a wildlife or fisheries biologist.
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Penn State is hosting 44 students for this, the second year of the Governor’s School, which invites Pennsylvania students to explore the science behind farming and related fields.
Earlier this week, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera’s “Schools That Teach” tour visited the dairy barns where the Governor’s School high school students were getting up close and personal with the cows.
“Agriculture is our state’s leading industry with one in seven jobs in Pennsylvania related to the agricultural industry,” Rivera said in a statement. “This is why it is so important that we ensure our students are exposed to natural and animal sciences early in our public schools and opportunities for advanced scholarship, such as the Governor’s School are available to our high school students.”
The five-week Governor’s School program provides “a summer enrichment program for talented high school students interested in pursuing a career in an agriculture-related field.”
“Ensuring that students graduate from high school with college- and career-ready skills is paramount to Gov. Tom Wolf’s vision for education and his $1 billion proposed investment in Pennsylvania’s education system would allow for greater opportunities to expose students to the high-demand jobs in the agricultural industry,” Rivera said.
Katelyn Brouse, 17, of Mifflinburg, is getting an overview of the many different career options as the program looks at things such as animal science, global agriculture, ecology and more, but the breadth of the program points toward what she wants to do with her life. She plans to come back to Penn State and become an agriculture educator, a role she already is performing in her school.
“I want to take my new knowledge back to my school,” she said. She will share it with others through her 4-H program.
The Governor’s School took a five-year break under Govs. Ed Rendell and Tom Corbett, before being reinstituted in 2014. It is a partnership between the governor’s office, the state Department of Education, the university’s College of Agricultural Sciences and the state’s intermediate units.
“The Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Ag Sciences appreciates the continued support from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to provide this important educational opportunity in agricultural and environmental science to gifted and talented rising high school seniors,” said Governor’s School Director Jenneth Layaou.
Two other Governor’s School programs have been resurrected. Carnegie Mellon University hosts the Governor’s School for Sciences, while the Governor’s School for Engineering and Technology is held at Lehigh University.