Rural Action recognized two Washington County teens at its 2023 Annual Meeting for their outstanding passion and work in agricultural education.

Rural Action awarded Fort Frye High School sophomores Kyla Britton and Julia Silvus the 2023 Youth Sustainability Award for their ongoing engagement with Rural Action’s internship program and their work on sustainable agriculture education. Britton and Silvus were joined at the event by their parents, and their FFA adviser, mentor, and teacher, Abby Campbell.

Through the internship program, the teens teach weekly in Washington County and monthly in Morgan County during the school year. The two went into the internship knowing they want to become teachers, they said; only one has a background in agriculture, but now both know they want to become ag teachers.

“This internship gave us a classroom and a lot of experience teaching the subjects that we want to teach,” Silvus said. “I honestly think it’s just given us a lot of clarity that this is what we want to do because we love it. We’re both very passionate about ag.”

They expressed that they have cultivated several skills through the internship program — especially in regards to teaching and working with children, ages 6–12.

“We definitely have learned classroom practices and how to deal with students,” Silvus said. “It took a lot for us to grow in our communication skills with kids.”

Britton added, “Time management is also something we’ve really developed.” As best friends, co-teaching comes easy to them, she noted.

Their programming consists of a presentation and activity, such as worksheets and games.

“Plus a craft or snack or something that pertains to the lesson and makes it fun for them,” Silvus said. “Because at that age, it’s hard to keep them engaged. That’s another thing we’ve learned — how to stay engaging. We try to keep it as fun as possible.”

Though they have completed their 40-hour internship over the summer, Britton and Silvus have plans to continue educating kids in southeast Ohio about agriculture.

“We’ve already signed up to do a youth booth at the farmers market in Beverly,” Silvus said. “It will be our second internship and we’re gonna be short, three-minute teaching lessons, and then we’ll have a fun activity to do with them. We’ll be helping our kids in our community learn about what goes into growing produce, how to sell it and how you market it, and all that other stuff.”

For Rural Action CPO Joe Brehm, working with Julia and Kyla has been truly inspiring.

“There is something powerful about our work being affirmed by these two students,” Brehm said.

He added that, through their internship, Silvus and Britton surveyed younger students for their science fair research to try and determine the importance of ag education. Their outreach confirmed that students who participate in programs, like the ones they were leading, are more likely to understand where their food comes from.

“I can’t help but see some parallels between their thought process in conducting this research and our own recent endeavors to add the Live Healthy Kids program to our Sustainable Ag team,” Brehm said. “The fact that Julia and Kyla feel that this type of programming is important is an incredible motivator to keep the LHK program going strong.”

Brehm added in his nomination of the students, “Kyla and Julia have been two of the most communicative interns we’ve ever had, sharing regular progress updates and programs they have created. The work they have done, supported by teacher Abby Campbell, has created more opportunities for Rural Action to collaborate with the school district on programs like Farm to School, School Days at the Chesterhill Produce Auction, and Live Healthy Kids. We look forward to the great things both Julia and Kyla will go on to do for their community!”

For over a decade, Rural Action has honored the people, businesses, and organizations that teach us how to live and work in greater harmony with Earth and with each other. During our annual meeting each year, we recognize those who create new models for living with respect to the earth and its systems that others can follow; have a generous spirit and willingly share knowledge, experiences, and personal resources with others; and leave the world a better place because of their personal and professional behavior. Find more 2023 winners and winners from previous years here.