Haven McElhanon of Forrest City, Arkansas, has been named the 2015 USA Rice Federation National Rice Month Scholarship winner, sponsored by Dow AgroSciences. As the grand-prize winner, she received a $4,000 scholarship and a trip to the awards ceremony at the 2015 USA Rice Outlook Conference.
McElhanon’s initiative “Rice -- a Health Happy Hand” touted the health benefits of budget-friendly rice, which she promoted through classroom visits and community events, spreading rice information and recipes. She also enlisted support from a local judge who signed a proclamation to make September Arkansas Rice Month.
“The ‘Think Rice’ fact and activity sheet that I shared with elementary students got them involved as they learned about the six rice-producing states in the U.S.,” McElhanon says. “They enjoyed the sheet activities, including a word search, maze and word scramble. This was a really fun way to get the students interested in rice.”
McElhanon is part of a fifth-generation farming family in Arkansas. While rice production has always been part of her community, she learned more about its importance while conducting rice promotions and serving as Miss St. Francis County Rice 2015.
“In spreading the news about rice and its nutritional value, I became interested in pursuing a degree in nutrition upon attending college in the fall of 2016,” McElhanon says. “I will continue to share the ‘Think Rice’ educational program with elementary schools, civic clubs, senior citizen groups and other organizations through the spring of 2016.”
To apply for the scholarship, high school students were required to develop a promotional program in their local community that highlights U.S.-grown rice as part of National Rice Month in September. The second- and third-place winners are Mary Katherine Swindoll and Clay Parker, respectively.
“During the past seven years of Dow AgroSciences sponsoring the National Rice Month Scholarship, we have been impressed with the students’ passion and effort they put into promoting rice in their communities,” says Darla Huff, rice product manager, Dow AgroSciences. “These applicants are our next generation of producers, teachers and agriculture advocates.”