Conetoe youth make trip to Washington, D.C.


Youth, staff, friends and volunteers of the Conetoe Family Life Center pose for a photograph on the roof of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.


By Corey Davis
Staff Writer

Monday, January 2, 2017

Federal agriculture officials were curious about the programs taking place at the Conetoe Family Life Center.

Last month, representatives from the Conetoe Family Life Center said several youths made an in-depth power point presentation to officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., about their involvement in the center.

Conetoe Family Life Center representatives said the students described their passion for gardening and their knowledge of beekeeping inspired their efforts in agribusiness with the honey being made sold to the public. The students received an inspirational message from Dr. Joe Leonard, assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who informed the students about their ability to make a sustainable transformation in the field of agribusiness.

In addition, Dr. Gregory Parham, assistant secretary of agriculture for administration, and Yeshimet Abebe, deputy assistant secretary for administration, both shared with the students the different opportunities with the Agriculture Department and encouraged them to explore all of the options in the agriculture field.

“They really encouraged them to be proud of their heritage and for them to understand anything is possible for them to accomplish,” said Brooks Wadsworth, farm manager at the Conetoe Family Life Center.

Takhiya Whitehead, a seventh-grader at W.A. Pattilo Middle School, said the trip was a great opportunity to tour the Agriculture Department and present information in a unique setting.

“This trip enhanced the education that I received at the Conetoe Family Life Center,” Whitehead said. “At Conetoe they teach us gardening, teamwork and business. When we went to D.C., we saw people that went to school to study agriculture. They made a living off of agriculture and they made good money. This made me feel good because it let me know that it is possible to make your goals come true.”

Moeshia Whitehead, a seventh-grader at Martin Millennium Academy, said presenting to the Agriculture Department taught the group how to speak up and how to speak in public.

In addition, the students listened to presentations from the Agriculture Department officials and learned about the 1890 National Scholar Program, whose goal is to increase the number of minority students studying agriculture, Conetoe Family Life Center representatives said.

“My favorite part of the USDA trip was going on the tour,” Whitehead said. “When we went to the roof of the USDA building, we saw the bees, the new African-American Museum and the Capitol. I felt excited because I had never seen this before.”

The Rev. Richard Joyner established the local organization in 2007, whose mission has been to improve the health of the youth and adults in the predominantly African-American small rural area in Edgecombe County.

Joyner said Audrey Rowe, administrator for food and nutrition services at the Agriculture Department, earlier this year visited the Conetoe Family Life Center to learn about the program and was behind the efforts to bring the Conetoe youth to Washington, D.C. 

Rowe reminded the students of their vibrant potential to serve as leaders in the field of agriculture within their communities, Family Life Center officials added.

“I’m proud of the students,” Joyner said. “They represented in a great way that their parents and communities can be proud. I am glad to be part of this effort.”