Written By: Angelica Aldana
Just last week, Cal Poly hosted 86 high school students from across California. Aside from the regular tour of campus, these students engaged in hands-on workshops, listened to motivational words from faculty members and discovered the vast array of opportunities that lie within the agriculture industry and Cal Poly.
What is 26 Hours?
26 Hours, a program that originated from a senior project 26 years ago, has grown into a highly anticipated event for students who wish to attend a four year university, such as Cal Poly. A planning team comprised of Cal Poly students worked closely with Dr. Flores as they prepared for the arrival of students from the following high schools: Gonzales, King City, Soledad, Everett Alvarez, Santa Paula, Hanford, Sierra Pacific, Hanford West, Carpinteria and All Tribes.
On day one of the events, attendees dove right into a hands-on experience with Dr. Sabol as they learned how to graft apple trees. When asked what his favorite part of the day was, Hector Lopez, of Gonzales High School, explained that he was “excited to take home an [apple] tree” he helped graft. Following the fun of grafting, students participated in a series of Learn by Doing workshops that were facilitated by Cal Poly’s very own faculty members and students. These workshops included the “ABC’s of Fire Suppression” with Dr. Kellogg, “Don’t be Shy: Interviewing Skills” with Dr. Delay, and “Fruit and Fun in HCS” with a group of students from the Horticulture Department. After students had the opportunity to dip their feet into agriculture, they heard the impacting words of Ms. Maria Arvizu- Rodriguez, an academic counselor for EOP and Student Academic Services. Her words emphasized the fact that college is possible, no matter your race, background or challenges.
Participants experienced downtown San Luis Obispo before returning the next morning where they had the opportunity to ask a panel of five undergraduate students about their experiences so far as a Mustang. With three more Learn by Doing workshops, students learned about the anatomy of an egg, secrets of soil science and horsepower with Dr. Spiller, Dr. Appel and a group of BRAE (Bio Resource Agricultural Engineering) students. Over lunch, Dr. Appel spread an encouraging message to students about the value of a college education.
Why 26 Hours?
Many participants may or may not have had experience with agriculture. Regardless of their prior knowledge, each participant of the program learned something new about the industry and had the chance to tap into their potential as a future Mustang. Gonzales agriculture advisor, Eric Morasca, acknowledged the benefits of 26 Hours. “Students get the chance to really see what Cal Poly has to offer through a hand-on experience. They begin to think, ‘I can and should go to college,’” he said. Morasca highlighted that students who will become first-generation college students are exposed to the ample amounts of assistance and guidance provided by Cal Poly faculty. Dr. Kellogg, Department Head of Agricultural Education and Communication, enjoys the fact that 26 Hours is “an excellent opportunity for students to discover careers in agriculture since they have expanded their understanding of what agriculture is.” Kellogg also expressed the value of utilizing a college campus setting to host an event like this.
The participants of this year’s 26 Hours went back to their home towns more educated about agriculture, hopeful for bright futures, and excited for their future endeavors as a college student.