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Southern University will build future natural resource leaders through grants

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Southern University received over $1 million in USDA Capacity Building Grants to create a sustainable workforce pipeline through education and skills development.

“We want to move students from potential to promise,” said Southern University Assistant Professor of Urban Forestry, Dr. Christopher Chappell.


Eco Leaders, a Southern University program set to begin this fall, is dedicated to natural resource management students. The project plans to use over $200,000 from the US Department of Agriculture to create a pipeline of candidates equipped to address environmental challenges.

“This is to address global climate change and workforce needs, because right now, when you’re not even experiencing the height of summer, we have a heat index of upwards of 113 degrees,” Chappell said.

Both high school and college students will gain hands-on experience addressing real-time issues at the local and national level through ecotours. The opportunity will allow students to learn from innovative leaders.

“Those who are out of state will meet with industry partners, as well as other universities. And for those at the local level, we’ll meet with agencies across the state,” Chappell said.

In addition to this initiative, the Jagratory Youth STEAM Mobile Lab project also received $250,000 in funding. This will provide educational and career opportunities for students in grades K-12.

“This is important to the community because we’re focusing on underserved rural areas that might not be able to come to us. So we’re going to provide them with these services,” said Assistant Area Extension Agent for Youth Development, Dr. Charity M. Schaffer.

The mobile lab will travel to different communities across Louisiana. The mobile lab offers hands-on activities and interactive sessions that not only educate, but also inspire the next generation of agricultural professionals.

Schaffer also adds that the STEAM Mobile Lab project plans to “build this program from just drone certification to where we’re using drones to help our farmers either dust their crops with pesticides or biological control agents or even tag livestock.”

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