David Gramenz of Steeleville was honored as Rend Lake College Agriculture Student of the Year and several other students received recognition as well during the 29th annual RLC Agricultural Banquet, held Friday, April 8, at Rend Lake Resort.
According to Applied Science Division Chair Sarah Ochs, Gramenz is described by his friends and instructors as a charismatic, friendly person who enjoys helping his classmates and is possessed of an intelligence beyond his years.
“Agriculture is a staple in his life,” said Ochs.
Also honored during the banquet were:
• Agricultural Production Student of the Year – Kendall Browning (West Frankfort)
• Agricultural Mechanics Student of the Year – Luke Wiskamp (Freeburg)
• Agricultural Business Student of the Year – Emily Donoho (Bluford)
• Horticulture Student of the Year – Laura Adams (Bonnie)
• Diesel Technology Student of the Year – Jeremy Reeves (Greenville)
• Heavy Equipment Technology Student of the Year – Erien White (Du Bois)
Also honored at the banquet was Ochs, who received the Friend of Cooperatives Award from the Illinois Cooperative Council. The award was bestowed by Dr. Robert Arthur, retired Chair and Professor of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and Peggy Kaye, Vice President of Public Relations for Farm Credit Services of Illinois.
RLC President Mark S. Kern told the packed house of the humble beginnings of the college’s Agriculture program, which has since grown into one of the best in the state. He recalled the start of the Agriculture program in July 1968, when he, Ardel Kimmel and Carroll Turner were hired to develop and implement the curriculum. For a time, the three set up shop at the former Bonnie Grade School, where the three shared a coat room for an office.
In the early 1970s, the shop was destroyed by a tornado, and the Agriculture Department moved into its current facility on the Ina campus, where it has steadily expanded.
Over the years, the Agriculture Department has had many firsts at RLC: it was the first program to promote on-job training; it created the first Advisory Council among the campus departments; it spawned the college’s first Applied Mathematics program, and was the first to host an awards banquet.
Kern’s advice to RLC’s Agriculture students was simple: “You are going to receive an ag degree. Be proud of it.”
He said most ag students already have dealt with budgets, doing more with less and adversity. “You also know what a good day’s work is,” he added.
Kaye, the keynote speaker, said she has discovered that some high school counselors tell their students not to go into agriculture because there is no future in it.
Kaye heartily disagrees.
She noted that anything that is made from petroleum can be made from renewable sources such as corn, soybeans and wheat.
“We don’t know how long it takes the earth to make a gallon of crude oil, but we know how long it takes to grow a crop,” she said.
Another benefit of products made from renewable sources is that they are biodegradable. She displayed coffee mugs, packing material, bath soap, crayons, quick-dry tee-shirts, tableware, diapers and a host of other products all made from renewable sources.
“You will keep coming up with new products like this,” she told the group. “There is so much to be optimistic about in agriculture. We’ve only scratched the surface.”
Kaye said there are four secrets to success:
• Be optimistic – Always keep a positive attitude.
• Be adaptable – Adapt not only to your world, but to the world.
• Be curious – Wonder why things are done. There is always a better way.
• Be able to communicate – Be able to deal not only with agriculture professionals, but with all types of people.
“Success is not a goal. Success is a path,” Kaye said. “Find something you are passionate about, turn it into a career, do it for the rest of your life, and you will never work a day in your life.”