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,