Making the difference for students to attend and stay in college

The School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences welcomed 32 freshmen into the UMES Land-Grant Scholarship program for the 2023-24 academic year. It was the largest influx to date, bringing the total number to 85 of UMES students currently in the program. 

Since the program’s inception in fall 2020, roughly $2 million has been disbursed to cover the academic expenses of 110 UMES students. The need-based scholarships are open to undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing careers in food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences. 

“With the land-grant scholarship, I’ve been able to continue my agricultural studies in plant and soil science without stressing about affordability,” said Fatimah Belgrave, a first-year transfer student (Class of ’26) from Philadelphia. “I chose UMES because they believe in my potential and are providing me the resources I need to succeed.”

Without the financial assistance provided by the scholarship, many would not have been able to enroll at the university or have continued their studies, said Sharon Mills, liaison for the UMES Land-Grant Scholarship and assistant to the SANS dean for recruitment, retention and experiential training.

“(Being a land-grant scholar) has helped me receive internship opportunities and scholarships to help pay for my education,” said Jordan Frazier, an agribusiness management major from Springdale, Maryland. “Now, when I graduate from UMES I’ll have a full-time job working with the USDA.” 

The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to support educational opportunities for students interested in these targeted career fields.

May 2023 graduate Juliaana Fitts landed a job as a soil conservationist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Binghamton, New York. Her bachelor’s degree in agriculture with a concentration in plant and soil science, along with an internship with the agency, made her an ideal candidate for the position. 

“I was blessed to be in the land-grant scholarship program, affording me innumerable opportunities,” Fitts said. “The scholarship allowed me to complete my studies at UMES, where I was able to learn from and work with amazing faculty who sparked my love for agriculture. Not only was the agricultural community on campus supportive, it also allowed me to network with like-minded students in its Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences chapter”

Her advice to fellow undergraduates: “Agriculture is the way to go!” 

Awards are renewable for up to four years for incoming freshmen, and transfer or current undergraduate students given the recipient maintains a 2.8 GPA and fulfills the program requirements. Scholarships provide up to $15,000 per year in-state or $25,000 for out-of-state, based on the student’s financial need.

Gail Stephens, agricultural communications, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, UMES Extension,, 410-621-3850.

Photo submitted.

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