IA scholarship winners 2022: Hester, Sarantopulos

Discover what brought the 2022 Anthony W. “Tony” LaFetra Scholarship Program recipients into the green industry, their future career plans and industry experience.
Learn about Ethan Hester and Emily Sarantopulos, two of the 18 winners of the IA's 2022 Anthony W. “Tony” LaFetra Scholarship Program.

In this series, learn more about the 18 recipients of the Irrigation Association’s 2022 Anthony W. “Tony” LaFetra Scholarship Program sponsored by Rain Bird, given to college students studying and pursuing careers in the irrigation field.

The scholarships, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000, were awarded based on the candidate’s letter of intent, financial need, resume, list of irrigation courses and letters of reference.

Since the program’s inception in 2016, 107 students have been awarded scholarships.

Ethan Hester

Undergraduate student at the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
Graduation date: May 6, 2023

How and why did you get involved in agriculture?

In seventh grade, my interest in agriculture was sparked with my first agriculture class. I was told that there was so much more to this industry than just being a farmer. This was when I realized that agriculture had a hand in every industry to some extent.

What experience do you have in the agriculture industry?

I have had several experiences that have allowed me to spread my horizons. I have experience in the family garden, as well as with a major producer in cotton, peanuts, corn and a local sod farm operation. I also have experience in the research and development of pesticides with a major cooperation and the University of Georgia.

What is a personal accomplishment within the agriculture industry that you’re proud of?

I have had the opportunity to help run several trials that have provided data that has made changes and strides to a more sustainable lifestyle for agriculture.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to help seek out other methods such as host plant resistance to white mold (a common disease in peanuts) to help reduce the amount of pesticides applied to our crops.

What kind of career in agriculture are you working toward?

I am currently working towards a career in plant breeding, genetics and genomics. With this I plan to help impact our world’s food supply by taking the strain off of pesticide applications by utilizing host plant resistance and other precision breeding methods.

What does smart irrigation mean to you?

Smart irrigation is the stride toward a more sustainable lifestyle in the industry of agriculture, by allowing for precise utilization of watering patterns and timing of applications.

Emily Sarantopulos

Undergraduate student at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, California
Graduation date: June 9, 2024

How and why did you get involved in agriculture?

I first got involved with agriculture when I took intro to ag courses in seventh and eighth grade. In those classes, we had the opportunity to do research projects and enter them to compete at the local high school against older kids in the FFA program. From then on, I knew I wanted to be in FFA. So, when I got to high school, I became a part of the FFA program competing in speaking competitions, research projects, career development teams and raising livestock. I loved all the hands-on opportunities that the organization has to offer.

What experience do you have in the agriculture industry?

For all four years of high school, I raised livestock (sheep and goats) and showed at both the county and state fairs. I also competed against other members with research projects at the local, state and national level.

At Cal Poly, I am the ag ambassador representative for the bioresource and agricultural engineering department, where I speak to prospective students who wish to come to Cal Poly and help them make their decision.
One of my jobs in the industry has been serving as a student assistant to the dean’s office for the past year. My duties include running social media platforms, photography and video. I also work for the Irrigation Training Research Center as a student employee.

What is a personal accomplishment within the agriculture industry that you’re proud of?

A personal accomplishment in the agriculture industry would be my involvement in FFA. I had the opportunity to be on two teams that won the state championship: farm business management and ag issues forum.

I also got the chance to attend FFA nationals for a research project on water quality and speak to a panel of judges. My highest of achievements would be receiving my American degree and getting to be a finalist for American Star in Agriscience as well as a finalist in Proficiency for Integrated Systems all in the same year.

What kind of career in agriculture are you working toward?

The nice part about being a BRAE major is we are given so many opportunities out of college. My interest lies with water. Whether that be working as an engineer for an irrigation company after college or maybe even working for a local or state farm bureau as a water engineer.

What does smart irrigation mean to you?

Smart irrigation to me means an irrigation system that can run directly from a device, in most cases a phone. A system that has automatic run times and can use collected data to determine what the plot of land needs.

Read about the other 2022 LaFetra Scholarship winners.

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