Rural Scholars Hold Summer Workshop

From the ground up, students participating in Kent State’s Rural Scholars Program learned a great deal about their communities during a recent five-day “Soil and Water Explorations” workshop.

The 34 students and nine mentors traveled throughout the county getting dirty, wet, sweaty and hot. Many of the workshop’s activities were conducted outside, as the students visited Beaver Creek; the Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center, the Draime Estate Garens in Warren; Coldwell’s Timber Consulting in Salineville; the Pete Conkle farm in Hanoverton; and the Kent State Salem campus.

The Rural Scholars Program offers first-generation college-bound students from Columbiana County a program designed to give them and their families the knowledge and social support they will need to succeed at a university. The goal is for every student in the program to complete post-secondary education with credentials necessary to succeed in his or her career.

The program also includes local Kent State students who serve as mentors to the rural scholars. Likewise, each mentor is a first-generation college student from Columbiana County with a strong record of academic success and a desire to serve the community. 

During the first day of this year’s workshop, the students worked with Columbiana Soil and Water Conservation District professionals at Beaver Creek where they conducted macroinvertebrate surveys to determine water quality. Later, the students hiked to the Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center where they performed community service by shoveling gravel, organizing display items and helping with housekeeping tasks.

They conducted tree identification at the Draime Estate Gardens and at Coldwell’s Timber, learning about tree and soil management in two very different environments. 

With help from the Mahoning Soil and Water Conservation District staff, the students conducted soil sampling on the Salem Campus, and learned how to navigate using topographic maps and compasses.

To cap off the week, the students went fishing and learned about aquatic habitats through an educational program through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Wendy Pfrenger is the Rural Scholars program coordinator and she explained that this summer’s workshop activities were intended to help the students appreciate the community around them. “This includes the environment, as well as the people,” she said.

“Offering our Rural Scholars opportunities to study applied science and math in the same places they call home – the waterways and farms and forests – helps them see how what they’re learning in school matters in the real world, too.”

Pfrenger added that through the workshop, students also learn about career pathways from professionals and entrepreneurs who choose to follow their dreams in Columbiana County.

“We hope that offering experiences like this early in their school careers will encourage them to imagine successful futures for themselves in northeast Ohio after they graduate,” she said.

The Rural Scholars students are from the Crestview, Salem, Lisbon, East Liverpool, Wellsville and Southern Local school districts. 


Media Contact:
Tina Smith, 330-337-4247,

POSTED: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 12:30 PM
UPDATED: Thursday, December 08, 2022 09:24 AM

Related Articles

More than 60%  of rural Americans live in areas the National Institute of Health deem to be underserved by mental health professionals and only about 20% of social workers nationwide are employed in rural areas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These stats, coupled with the high demand for licensed social workers — especially in areas like those surrounding Kent State University’s Regional Campuses — produce significant disparities and gaps in care for people needing social services.

Filling in those gaps is the primary aim of program director Matt Butler and Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program through Kent State’s College of Applied and Technical Studies (CATS), which will have an emphasis on rural social work.

At the end of the 2022 fall semester, the Columbiana County campuses literary journal, Black Squirrel Scholars, held a short fiction writing contest and the winners were announced at the beginning of the new semester.

Kent State Columbiana County Campuses will be a host for this multi-campus open house event.

Kent State University is inviting prospective students and families throughout Northeast Ohio to explore its Regional Campus System at a unique, simultaneous open house event.  

The inaugural Blue & Gold Night begins at 5:30 p.m. March 21.