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B.H. East ag program among best

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Pam Berenger

Daryl, Dan and Ken Shike of Alexis relax in a cattle barn following Mercer County Fair's junior beef show last July. Dan Shike attends Black Hawk College and recently won a national judging competition.

Black Hawk East, one of Illinois' smallest campuses, has one of the largest agricultural programs for community colleges, Lanny Anderson, the school's agriculture department chair, said.

National champion livestock- and horse-judging teams draw students. If another community college has horses on campus for the students to use, Mr. Anderson doesn't know about it. Neither does he know of a community college that allows students to bring their own horse to work with. That's a big draw, especially for those students from out of state.

Another big draw to the school is the reputation of its teachers, like Penny Wittler, Julie Schneider, Donna Irvin, Bill Good, Dan Hoge, Lee Denzer and Jon Wolf, whose names are familiar with leaders in the ag industry throughout the state and nation.

``The livestock-judging team and horse-judging teams are the two you hear the most about,'' Mr. Anderson said. ``The students put in lots of practice hours to compete. But there are lots of reasons. We have an excellent reputation as a top-notch ag program as well as our other activities.''

Mr. Anderson said the man who started the program in 1967 was a firm believer that students needed to be involved outside the classroom to succeed. Those programs are still in place today through post-secondary student organizations, college bowl, public speaking and interview events.

``Those opportunities give students the opportunity to apply what they have learned,'' he said. ``We're finding more businesses come to campus to interview our students each year. Right now, the ag field is good. We get more and more calls each year, more calls than we have students. They need people in all areas.''

There's a misunderstanding that agriculture is just farming, Mr. Anderson said.

``They don't realize there is so much more to agriculture,'' he said. ``Broadcast news, fertilizer, marketing and sales, are all part of agriculture.''

The community college in Kewanee has a program for just about anyone, Mr. Anderson said. Programs include agriculture production, agri business, a horticulture program, equestrian and horse science and an ag chemical applicators option.

The school offers an ag transfer program that gives students two years at Black Hawk, after which they transfer to a four-year school. Their course work is articulated to a four-year school and has the same text and outline in those nine courses.

Students enrolled in career programs, such as ag production, agri business and horse science, will spend 11 weeks in the spring applying what they have learned on working farms. Those enrolled in ag business and production will spend an additional eight weeks in the fall on farms.

``Work experience places students throughout the country,'' Mr. Anderson said. ``Our students go to Wyoming, Colorado, whatever location will best match what their looking at for the future. Most universities will not have work experience.''

-- By Pam Berenger (February 9, 1998)

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