Aidan Bell, a recent graduate of Laurel High School, was pushed into taking an agriculture elective class he barely had interest in during his sixth grade year.
Six years later, he was awarded $7,000 through the first ever Mountaire Farms Farm to Table Scholarship, which he will use to pursue a degree in agriculture and natural resources from the University of Delaware.
“I just fell in love with agriculture,” Bell said. “I’m beyond blessed and beyond honored to receive this award. The scholarship will go to great use for college since it covers pretty much an entire year of school for me, so it definitely helps out a lot financially.”
Mountaire Farms is an agricultural food production and processing company providing work for almost 10,000 people at facilities in Arkansas, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.
The company awarded $30,000 in Farm to Table Scholarships last week to help support graduating seniors who are pursuing careers in agriculture, culinary arts or related fields that support food production and feeding the world.
The money was given to 10 First State students. Winners received $2,000 for college, while two – Bell and Samantha Teoli of Indian River High School – were awarded an additional $5,000.
“It meant everything to get the second scholarship, although the first one was great enough, but to get the extra money to go towards my school and education to help me reach my goals meant the world,” Teoli said.
Teoli, who’s attending Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia in the fall, is pursuing a degree in culinary arts. She hopes to one day open her own restaurant.
Bell and Teoli were selected as the overall winners, with the additional $5,000, for their outstanding accomplishments and leadership.
Bell has been involved with the Future Farmers of America (FFA) since he was in seventh grade, serving as a reporter, advisor and most recently the president at his school’s FFA.
“FFA has been some of the greatest times I’ve ever had in my high school career,” he said. “It’s taken me to Massachusetts once to Indianapolis twice, and also going back for a third time this October for a food science competition.”
He’s also received fourth place for he and his friend’s project in a national agriscience fair. Thep project focused on aquaponics, a production method where nutrient-rich aquaculture water is fed to hydroponically grown plants.
Bell is also a two-sport athlete (wrestling and football), and is a member of the National Honor Society.
Teoli has worked at a Farm to Table restaurant for three years, gaining experience while also being the captain of the girl’s lacrosse team, on the field hockey team, volunteering with the Leo Club, and is in the National Honor Society.
“Working at a Farm to Table restaurant, you can see how we support the local farmers and help generate their business,” she said. “Supplying food to the community from the land that they live on and around is great, because you know that that food is fresh and is taken care of well, because it’s taken care of by your own community members.”
At the year-end banquet last week at the Delaware Agricultural Museum in Dover, students and their families were brought together to celebrate their achievements and hear speeches from Delaware Celebrity Chef Hari Cameron.
He congratulated the students on their achievements and recounted his journey to success, emphasizing that anything is possible with hard work and determination.
“It’s so important to recognize the key role that agriculture and culinary arts play in our society today,” said Phillip Plylar, President of Mountaire Farms. “During COVID, it was those two industries that helped keep everyone fed. Shining a light on the important work of the people who grow, raise, prepare, and serve the food we eat each day has been an honor.”
The other eight winners, who were awarded $2,000, are:
- Reef Ward of James M. Bennett High School. He wants to pursue a degree in Agribusiness at the University of Maryland. He is a certified professional horticulturist and currently serves as a greenhouse and sales representative in Salisbury, MD.
- Savana Geib of Cambridge South Dorchester High School. She wants to study marine biology and continue her studies in culinary arts. She plans to attend Anne Arundel Community College.
- Tabitha Lenhart of Milford High School. She is a member of the National Honor Society, FFA, ASL Club, and the track team. She plans to attend Delaware State University and study animal and poultry science, ultimately pursuing a career in animal genetics and breeding.
- Hunter Holladay of Indian River High School. He served as FFA President, and is a member of the National Honor Society. He plans to attend Delaware Tech and study livestock veterinary science.
- Ty Beach of Parkside High School. He earned the Academic Achievement Award (2020, 2022) and the President’s Academic Achievement Award (2022, 2023) and graduated Cum Laude this year. He volunteers at soup kitchens and other community events and plans to study business at Wor Wic Community College. He ultimately wants to own his own restaurant.
- Kai Bernard of Caeser Rodney High School. She serves on the Prostart Team, was the Delaware State Prostart State Champion in 2023, and took second place at the National Prostart Invitational in 2023. She wants to attend Walnut Hill College and ultimately be a pastry chef and a bakery owner.
- Cecilia Uebel of Stephen Decatur High School. She is a member of the National Honors Society, the National English Honor Society and the National Technical Honor Society. She also served as FFA Vice President (2021), and FFA President (2022, 2023). She plans to attend the University of Delaware in the fall and study wildlife ecology and conservation and pursue a career in ag-land conservation.
- Kiana Young of Polytech High School. She is a Prostart Team Captain who plans to attend the Culinary Institute of America. She wants to study baking and pastry and become a pastry chef.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz