UAM student among 11 chosen for Cooperative Extension Service internship

After nearly a 20-year absence, the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service is bringing back its college internship program. One of the 11 students chosen to participate in the 2022 program is Rayvin Callaway, a University of Arkansas at Monticello student.

Callaway, from Star City, will be a junior this fall. She is a double major in Ag Business and Animal Sciences.

“I applied for the CES internship program because I wanted to learn more about the role extension agents play in their community, county and state,” Callaway said. She said she expects to work for the 4-H members, preparing them to be leaders and teaching them to believe in themselves and dream big.

A two-pronged approach

Jerry Clemons, Delta District Director for the Cooperative Extension Service, said he hopes the internship program will both prepare those who are interested in extension for the real work of a county agent and recruit those who haven’t yet considered extension as a future employer.

“It’s an opportunity for us to let college students know a little bit about us and what we do,” Clemons said. “We hope to get them familiar with what we do so when they get out of college, they’ll look at us for employment, and if not, will be an advocate in whatever career field they choose.”

“In our mind, we picked 11 good ones,” he said, noting that funding limited the number of applicants the program could accept.

Because the internships are paid but do not provide housing, Clemons and other program administrators asked each intern to choose three preferred counties for his or her internship, so that they might be placed where they were able to live with family or in their own apartment or dormitory.

Callaway will shadow longtime Cleveland County extension agent and staff chair, Les Walz.

“Because Walz has been there for so long, it was felt Rayvin might get to experience the overall big picture of what an agent does,” Clemons said.

Gaining broad experience

Each intern will spend time working with agents of every stripe — agriculture, family consumer sciences and 4-H youth development — to get a well-rounded experience, Clemons said. He said he hoped the first crop of summer interns will return to college in the fall and encourage their classmates to apply, growing the program through word-of-mouth.

During the selection process, Callaway told her interviewers that among her academic studies, livestock reproduction and soil science were two of her favorite subjects.

“Although they are on opposite sides of the spectrum, I think they both piqued my interest and made me want to learn more,” she said. “Soils were very interesting because of the complexity and requirements to grow the crops we use to feed our livestock.

“Growing up, I was around row crops, specifically soybeans, but when my sister decided to show livestock, we both decided to,” Callaway said. “From there, my passion for agriculture grew, and I was able to become a member of some amazing organizations that have shaped me into the leader I am today. My goal for my degree is to spread facts about agriculture and instill a passion for it into the younger generation.”

A perfect fit

Callaway is active in UAM Collegiate Farm Bureau and Collegiate Cattleman Association and has also worked with 4-H and Future Farmers of America. Additionally, Callaway spent a summer working in the UAM beef barn for farm manager Greg Montgomery.

“What makes her special, she can have an infectious smile, she’s a sweet kid, and she can talk to anybody,” Montgomery said. “She also has the grit to go with it. She is a hard worker and very determined in what she wants to do. When she says she’s going to do something, she does it. She’s not scared to get in the middle of anything.”

Clemons says the internship will begin with a three-day leadership conference at the Arkansas 4-H Center in Ferndale, Arkansas following the conclusion of the spring semester. At the conference, interns will meet the extension agents with whom they’ll be working for the summer. The following week, the interns will report to their assigned counties.

“Whatever the agent is doing, they’ll be going along and shadowing,” Clemons said. “That could be walking pastures, getting sprayers set up, or helping with education programs.”

The internship will conclude in July with participation in the 4-H State O-Rama, the annual culmination of various 4-H competitions.

“Rayvin is one of those people I don’t worry about ever being successful,” Montgomery said. “She will do well wherever she’s at. She’s a young lady who is going to make UAM proud for many years to come.”