Posted by Melissa Blair, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement in Conservation Equity Initiatives

September 12, 2023

“The 1890 National Scholars Program played a critical role in shaping my future professional, educational and life goals,” said Epps, who recently began his new career as a soil conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Brunswick, Georgia. . “This experience has strengthened my commitment to pursuing a career in agriculture.”

Epps’ passion for caring for the land began with his lawn mowing business in Port Gibson, Mississippi. This led him to grow pumpkins and other vegetables to help feed his community.

“I learned about the 1890 National Scholars Program while attending a USDA summer program at Alcorn State University,” Epps said. “The program’s focus on supporting students pursuing college degrees aligns perfectly with my aspirations.”

Epps was selected for the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program in his sophomore year and interned with NRCS in Georgia in 2021 and 2022.

“Through the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program, students in underserved communities learn about USDA agencies, programs and careers, as well as… USDA Career Opportunities. Partnerships and Public Participation (OPPE).

Each scholar receives annual tuition, fees, books, room, and board for each academic year for which the scholarship is awarded, as well as a requirement to work with the USDA each summer. Renewal of the scholarship is contingent on satisfactory performance and normal progress toward the bachelor’s degree. Upon completion of the Scholar Degree Program, students are required to work for the USDA for one year for each year of financial support received.

The knowledge and skills acquired through a USDA internship also add to a researcher’s resume.

“Prospective employers and graduate schools recognize the 1890 National Scholars Program as a prestigious accomplishment, giving me a competitive advantage over other candidates,” Epps said.

The USDA/1890 National Scholars Program also provided networking opportunities that expanded Epps’ professional network and provided inspiration for his future career.

“I have had the privilege of meeting influential figures at USDA,” he said. “These meetings have allowed me to make meaningful relationships, gain insight into the industry, and receive mentorship from accomplished professionals.”

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