Ten high school students in Pioneers Youth Leadership were awarded $24,000 in scholarships and cash awards last week at the Capital Farm Credit Rural Youth Entrepreneurship Competition at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.

Jessica Dong from Knippa (rainwater collection business) and Steeley Smith from Mason (local meat processing business) each received a $10,000 scholarship. “Participating in this competition has given me confidence that I can successfully start and run a business in my hometown,” said Steeley Smith. “I was able to learn so much about the positive impacts of rainwater collection through my research,” said Jessica Dong of Knippa.

The other finalists, each of whom received a $500 cash award, were Jessica Castillo (nature conservation) and Alicia Saldana (high quality snails) from Uvalde High School, Clairisa Glass (cedar mulch) from Leakey High School, Lauren Coleman (drip irrigation), Bethany Keeney (exotic deer), Gabriella Menchaca (organic produce) and Erin O’Connor (white-tail deer breeding) from Knippa High School, and Taylor Doss (honey-based products) from Mason High School.

The Capital Farm Credit Rural Youth Entrepreneurship Competition, held during the Pioneers Youth Leadership Expo at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, helped high school students in the Pioneers program learn business principles, develop written and verbal communication skills in a business setting, and gain experience in starting a business. “All ten finalists had great ideas for their businesses, each of which could be a viable enterprise to provide them a living.” said Jay Stewart, Chief Lending Officer for Capital Farm Credit in College Station.

Capital Farm Credit is a member-owned cooperative providing financing to rural landowners, country homeowners, agricultural operators and agribusiness firms throughout Texas, with offices conveniently located throughout the state. Pioneers Youth Leadership is a leadership and community development program for Texas high school students in grades 9-12.

Photo: L to R: Travis Helm, Cheryl Hudec, Jae Thompson, Jay Stewart, Dr. Jim Mazurkiewicz, Jessica Dong, Steeley Smith, Darren Turley, Linda Ryan and Garry Merritt