Because the center is part of a unique new partnership between the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and Chicago high schools that will help students gain a strong education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), opening up educational and career opportunities for them later in life.
"The celebration of the center's opening will take place on Wednesday, March 7, at 10 a.m. at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS), 3807 W. 111th Street, in Chicago. We invite the public, and especially Chicago students, teachers, counselors, and employers to come learn about and take advantage of its resources," said director Corey Flournoy.
This new venture will help young students understand that agriculture is vital to urban areas of Illinois and offers rewarding careers, according to former College of ACES dean Robert Easter.
"Some experts say that the greatest challenge facing American agriculture is identifying and preparing the next generation of agriculturalists--plant breeders, biotechnology researchers, fertility consultants, technical systems managers, animal scientists, agribusiness professionals, horticulturalists, food scientists, and restaurant managers--but one thing is clear: there aren't enough young people coming from the farm and ranch today to meet that need," Easter said.
The first African-American and urban national FFA--formerly Future Farmers of America--president, center director Corey Flournoy knows that the opportunities for minority and urban students to succeed in these majors and careers are real.
The new center is located at CHSAS, a unique, experimental magnet school devoted to teaching agricultural sciences to urban students on its 72-acre campus. A working farm occupies 40 acres of the school, built on the site of the last farm to survive within the Chicago city limits. The high school has been a national finalist for the National Chapter Models of Innovation for its community service and chapter programs in the national FFA.
"Students commute from all across the city to attend CHSAS because they love the hands-on experience and opportunities for externships and full-time employment after college with the Lincoln Park Zoo, Nestle-Purina, Proctor & Gamble, Chicago Board of Trade, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, and others," Flournoy said.
The center is already providing exciting opportunities for students, including career pathway visits with ACES faculty and students, visits to food and agricultural industries, and recruitment into the college's Research Apprenticeship Program, a multi-summer college preparation and career exploration program for talented underrepresented high school students.
The center also exemplifies the long-standing collaboration between CHSAS teachers and U of I faculty on curricular development and experiential learning. College of ACES faculty helped establish the initial curriculum at CHSAS when the school was first launched in 1985.
Marc Schulman, president of Eli's Cheesecake Company and co-chair of the CHSAS Business Advisory Board, is a longtime fan and supporter of CHSAS and its alums.
"I have watched so many outstanding young graduates pursue and thrive in high-performance careers after being exposed to the opportunities and resources at CHSAS and the U of I College of ACES. The Illinois Center for Urban Agricultural Education is a national model of what is possible when a land-grant university commits to partnering with a science- and career-based high school," Schulman said.
Flournoy wants to give students a variety of resources to ensure that they are qualified for admission and poised for success in the U of I College of ACES. He urged interested students and parents to come see what the new center has to offer.
"Chicago is lucky to have a top-quality educator like Corey Flournoy engaged in student recruitment and success at CHSAS and beyond. As director, he will bolster the already strong ties between the center and ACES academic programs," said Walt Hurley, director of the U of I agricultural education program.
To learn more about CHSAS, please visit www.chicagoagr.org, and to learn more about the College of ACES at the U of I, please visit www.aces.illinois.edu.