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Stamford's Westhill Grows Future Farmers

When Tim Gerson was 11 he knew he wanted to learn more about polliwogs and fish and whales and everything else that lived in the water.

“I would rather go to the stream or pond and catch frogs than go play baseball with my friends,” said Gerson, who is now a senior in the Agriscience Program at Westhill High School.

The Agriscience Center is one of the best-kept secrets in the Stamford school system, contends its energetic director, Mathew Lisy.

“It’s been difficult to get the word out about this fantastic place where young people can not only study so many agricultural subjects they love but also get college credit while in high school,” adds Lisy. Currently, there are 90 students enrolled in the program with room for sixty more.

The Agriscience and Technology Program offers students in grades 9 through 12 from Stamford and surrounding towns the opportunity to study and prepare for more than 2,000 careers areas in the growing agricultural industry. They include subjects as diverse as floral design, veterinary services, food science, environmental planning and aquaculture.

Students enrolled in the program attend Westhill High School full time and participate in all the activities offered at the school, including sports, social activities and school clubs.

An important aspect of the Agriscience program is the opportunity it offers students to earn as many as 19 credits on a UConn transcript. The credits are transferable to many other colleges and can mean a full semester out of the way as a student enters college.

Students are required to participate in three study models, including classroom instruction, FFA and SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) or field trips. Participation in FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, gives students the chance to win college scholarships in their chosen area of study and provides important counseling support for students who are members.

“Last year, FFA gave out $2.2 million in scholarships to deserving students,” said its state President Victor Salazar, who was recently at Westhill to give agriscience students information on FFA programs.

Gerson is now the Aquaculture Lab manager at Westhill and waiting nervously to hear of his application to Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, where he hopes to major in marine biology.

And it all started when he was a sixth-grader pulling frogs out the neighborhood stream.

Would the Agriscience program be of interest to you or your child? Did you know this program existed in Stamford? Send us your comments and questions and we''ll get you the answer at this site, Facebook, Twitter or email jlupton@mainstreetconnect.us.

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