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By: Joann Pipkin. Published in Heartbeat magazine.

Committed to supporting the agricultural youth of Missouri, in 2003 FCS Financial’s board of directors implemented a program to encourage and support higher education for children or grandchildren of FCS Financial customers.  Today, FCS Financial’s scholarship program continues to be one of the ways FCS Financial gives back to its members and supports communities. 

Now in its 17th year, FCS Financial’s scholarship program annually distributes up to 35 scholarships of $1,500 each. Funds were first distributed in 2004. To date, 532 qualified applicants have been awarded $618,500 in scholarships.

Applications are available on the FCS Financial website at and are due March 1, 2020. Now let's take an inside look at what some of the 2014 recipients are doing today. 

Jillian (Bertz) Jones – Mayview

From Mayview, Jillian attended Missouri State University and graduated in May 2018 with a degree in general agriculture. 

While at MSU, Jillian was an MSU ag ambassador, helping to recruit high school students to become a part of the university’s college of agriculture. Her role also included promoting the William H. Darr College of Agriculture at the collegiate level. 

“It was a fun time to learn about marketing and it was a wonderful opportunity to meet a lot of great people,” Jillian said. 

Jillian Bertz

During her stint at MSU, Jillian was a member of the agronomy club and was a small group leader for Vine Campus Ministry. Also, she was a thrower for the university’s track team her freshman and sophomore years. 

“I learned a lot in those two years,” Jillian explained. “How to throw better, how to perform under pressure, how to work with different personalities, how to push others to be the best they can be and how to be a better leader.”

Jillian completed an internship in the summer of 2016, working as a crop scout for MFA, Inc. “I covered Missouri Valley and mid-Missouri territory where I would scout fields looking for disease, weed pressure, stand quality and overall field production,” she explained.

A second internship in the summer of 2017 brought Jillian to FCS Financial as a marketplace intern. At FCS Financial, Jillian learned the roles of loan officer, financial services specialist, credit analyst, appraiser and crop insurance agent. 

“I was also able to go to the different departments at FCS Financial’s central office in Jefferson City,” she said. “This internship was an amazing experience. It helped me figure out what I wanted to do after I graduated college. The internship also allowed me to work with some really great people who were passionate about their job and the people they serve – farmers.” 

Through her internship at FCS Financial, Jillian said she learned how to better connect with others, to not be afraid to ask questions and to work hard for what you want.

Currently a financial services specialist in FCS Financial’s Joplin office, Jillian lives in Carthage with her husband, Kaleb Jones. Her future plans are to continue working at FCS Financial and transition into a loan officer position. She also hopes to one day move back to her hometown and transition into her family’s farming operation while continuing to work at FCS Financial. 

Hannah (Campbell) Catlett – Gower

A spring 2018 graduate of Northwest Missouri State University, Hannah received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences. She first attended North Central Missouri College where she received an associate degree.

While a student at NCMC, Hannah was a member of National Professional Agricultural Student Organization (PAS). At NWMSU she was a part of the horticulture club and participated in the Mid-America Collegiate Horticultural Society contest. 

Hannah was a Soil Science Pathways intern with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service, and that led to a full-time position as a soil scientist. Through her internship, she worked in Buchanan County at the area NRCS office and at field offices in Nodaway, Daviess and Livingston counties. 

Currently a soil scientist in Livingston County, Hannah’s work consists of completing wetland determinations. She also assists in conservation planning and volunteers in helping judge the soils career development event for high school students as well as Envirothon. 

Hannah resides in Chillicothe and recently married Logan Catlett.

Michael Carpenter – Hardin

Michael Carpenter

A December 2017 graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michael received a B.S. degree in agricultural systems management (ASM). He also earned a certificate in precision agriculture technology and minors in animal science and agricultural economics.

While at MU, Michael was president of the ASM club and was voted club’s outstanding senior in the fall of 2017. He also served as vice president of Independent Aggies, was a Litton Leadership Scholars Cohort member in 2015-16 and was on the dean’s list from 2014-2017. Michael also worked as a farmhand at MU’s beef research and teaching farm. 

Two different study abroad courses took Michael to visit agricultural facilities and landmarks throughout Germany and England. 

As ASM club president, Michael attended a number of winter trips including a tour of John Deere World Headquarters and Harvester works in Moline, Illinois, and Kinze Manufacturing in Williamsburg, Iowa. He also ventured to east and central Texas for a closer look at Preifert Manufacturing, Nucor Steel Mill, an ADM grain ship loading port facility, a Caterpillar Forklift manufacturing facility, Texas A&M University and Fort Worth Stockyards. 

A third trip with the ASM club took Michael to an ADM flour mill and Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis; Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi; Zen-oah grain ship loading facility in Convent, Louisiana; and the National WWII museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

“During the study abroad experiences, I was able to really step outside the box of the United States and experience how other parts of the world do some of the same things we do in Missouri,” Michael explained.

Even today, he said through social media he keeps up with friends that work in the agricultural industry in both Germany and England. “They are very fascinated with our big equipment,” Michael said. “I would recommend anyone who is granted the opportunity to travel abroad in college to take advantage of that great opportunity.” 

Michael said the ASM club trips were a quick way to gain behind-the-scenes experience with how products are made, bought and sold.  

Currently, Michael manages a row crop and cattle operation with his father, uncle and brothers where the family grows corn and soybeans and backgrounds feeder heifers. Michael has introduced cover crops into the operation and hopes the operation reaps benefits from them. He obtained his private pilots’ license while in college. Today, he mixes business with pleasure by flying to attend cattle sales, make parts runs and purchase equipment. 

Michael lives near Norborne and is engaged to Cheyenne Baxter. 

Lindsey Gastler – Martinsburg

Lindsey graduated in May 2018 from MU with a B.S. degree in plant sciences, emphasis in crop management. 

Lindsey Gastler

While at MU, Lindsey was active in Sigma Alpha, a professional agriculture sorority, where she served as a fundraising co-chair and was nominated as the 2016 National Outstanding New Member. She was also a

Study abroad experiences sent Lindsey to Germany to learn about agricultural management and Argentina to study commodity value chains, marketing and trade policy. Additionally, Lindsey interned with Monsanto Company for two summers where she learned about production research and seed corn production. During the school year, she worked in Dr. Felix Fritschi’s plant physiology lab and Dr. Kevin Bradley’s weed science lab. 

“All of my experiences throughout my time at Mizzou gave me a better understanding of the world and agriculture,” Lindsey explained. “I learned how important each piece of the industry is to agriculture as a whole, and I gained a greater appreciation for agricultural producers who are the center of it all. Each experience brought a new opportunity to learn and develop personally and professionally.”

Additionally, she said the activities allowed her to discover what path she wanted to follow for her professional career. 

Currently, Lindsey is earning her Master of Science in Agronomy at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, and working as a graduate research assistant in weed ecology under Dr. Anita Dille. 

Following graduation in May 2020, Lindsey hopes to be an agronomist. 

Maddie Grant – Columbia

Maddie is a December 2017 graduate of MU with a B.S. in animal science. As an undergraduate, she worked as a research assistant in the ruminant nutrition lab under Dr. Monty Kerley. 

Maddie Grant

Actively involved in both Block and Bridle Club and Collegiate Cattle Women at Mizzou, Maddie served as president of Block and Bridle Club in 2016-17. In 2017, She was awarded the Division of Animal Sciences Top Senior award, given to an outstanding senior in the department and chosen by faculty.

Internships took Maddie in summer 2016 to Buchheit Agriculture, Inc., Perryville, Missouri, to explore feed milling and grain merchandising and during summer 2017 to the USDA Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska.

While Maddie was exposed to both cattle and row crops growing up, she said she had little knowledge of the feed milling or gain trading sectors of agriculture until her internships. 

“Working at Buchheit for the summer expanded my knowledge of grain processing, feed manufacturing and grain marketing,” she said. “While at USMARC, I assisted with a project looking at novel ways to quantify and improve feed efficiency in cattle. The work improved my laboratory skills and deepened my appreciation for research. It also helped me better understand my research interests, which helped me find what graduate program would be the best fit.”

Currently working on a M.S. degree in ruminant nutrition at Kansas State University, Maddie also plans to pursue a Ph.D. in ruminant nutrition and later work in academia conducting research and teaching at the collegiate level.

Erin Gerlemann – Hermann

After graduating from high school, Erin first attended East Central College (ECC) in Union as a transfer engineering student. She later attended Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla and graduated Summa Cum Laude in December 2018 with a degree in electrical engineering with an emphasis in controls and systems.

While in college, Erin juggled part-time work with being a full-time student. During her final semester at ECC, she acquired a job doing controls installation at Computech Manufacturing Company, a subsidiary of Melton Machine and Control Company, in nearby Washington, Mo. She continued to work there while taking classes at Missouri S&T as well.

“Working part-time and attending school full-time definitely had its challenges, but I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything,” Erin said. “Those experiences allowed me to expand my knowledge in the classroom setting and apply what I learned to what I was doing at work. Likewise, I was able to learn a lot of new things on the job and apply that to my school-work.”

Currently living in Hermann, Erin works full-time at Melton Machine and Control Company. In her present role, she works in a variety of tasks — from designing fixtures to programming and implementation of fully automated robotic weld cells. She also travels to customers’ facilities to make repairs, complete installations and integrate hardware programs into machines. 

Dalton Harris – Mountain Grove

Dalton Harris

Dalton is a May 2019 graduate of the College of the Ozarks with a degree in animal science. While at College of the Ozarks, he participated in cross country three years and track one year in addition to working on the school’s beef farm. 

A recipient of the Roy Johnson scholarship for character and responsibility on the work force, Dalton assisted with College of the Ozarks' show cattle and worked at the college beef farm. He was also a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. 

Through an internship with Scotts Miracle Grow, Dalton worked as a merchandiser constructing store displays to help promote the company’s products.

Today, Dalton is a veterinary assistant in Mountain Grove. He hopes to begin vet school in January at St. George’s University in Granada. 

Sara Laaker – St. Louis

A May 2018 graduate from St. Louis University with a B.S. degree in nursing, Sara was involved in the SLU chapter and national chapter of Student Nurses’ Association (SNA). Through SNA, she volunteered in health clinics and fundraisers for a variety of charities in the St. Louis area. 

“During my time at SLU, I worked with a senior center to do home visits to help with Meals on Wheels certifications and wellness checks,” she explained. “I spent numerous hours in various hospitals in the city and county of St. Louis.”

One extracurricular learning experience was an internship that sent Sara to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit. There, she worked one-on-one with patients and experienced nursing while assisting in nursing tasks. 

“The internship gave me a better understanding of being a nurse especially in a critical care setting,” Sara said. “I learned important time management skills, critical thinking, medications, titrating various critical medications and bettering my assessment skills.”

Currently, Sara works in the pediatric intensive care unit at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and lives in St. Louis. She plans to eventually earn certificates in pediatric and critical care nursing.

Jaime Luke – Stanberry

Jaime is a May 2018 graduate of MU with a B.S. in agricultural economics, minor in international agriculture. 

Jaime Luke

While at MU, she was a member of Sigma Alpha, serving as chapter secretary and philanthropy chair. She also participated in Agriculture Future of America where she was a member of the National Student Advisory Team and attended leaders conference, the Crop Science Institute in Sacramento, California; the Ag Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.; and the Food Science Institute in Chicago, Illinois.

She was chosen as the CAFNR Outstanding Graduate in May 2018, and also volunteered her time with Girls on the Run, working as a head coach of a girls running team at a local elementary school.

Jaime spent a semester studying international economics at the University of Alicante in Alicante, Spain. She also traveled to Thailand to study biodiversity and conservation and to Germany to learn about ag systems management. 

“While in Spain, I lived with a host family and had the opportunity to immerse myself in a culture much different than what I am accustomed to in the Midwest,” Jaime explained. “The experience, along with time spent in Thailand and Germany, opened my eyes to agriculture on the global level and helped me to understand the important role American farmers play in people’s lives all around the world.”

In addition to studying abroad, Jaime took part in three internships while at MU: one as a field services intern at Missouri Corn Growers Association in Jefferson City; the second as a fundraising intern at the Missouri Pork Association in Columbia; and the third as an economic analysis intern at the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C.

“My internships allowed me to take concepts I’d learned in the classroom and apply them to real-world situations,” Jaime said. “Having grown up on a farm, it was exciting to be able to work for farmers both across the state and across the nation. During my summer at American Farm Bureau Federation, I learned a great deal about commodities not typically grown in Missouri and the various issues farmers are facing throughout the country.”

Currently working toward a master’s degree in agricultural and applied economics at MU, Jaime lives in Columbia. Upon completion of her master’s degree, she plans to work in agricultural policy and economic analysis.

Carson Luther – Lawson

Carson Luther

Carson is a December 2017 graduate of MU where she earned a B.S. in applied social science-agricultural economics, and a minor in information technology. A Magna Cum Laude graduate, Carson was a member of Upsilon Pi Epsilon, a computing honor society. 

While at MU, Carson traveled to New Zealand for a study abroad experience focused on agricultural growth and exports. She was a teaching assistant in micro and macroeconomics as well as international agribusiness and agribusiness finance. Additionally, she served as a student intern for the MU hospital and campus networking teams and later became a full-time employee of the MU Health Care networking team.

Today, Carson is a wireless network administrator for a hospital in central Ohio and lives in Columbus. 

Charlie Raasch – Liberty

Charlie is a May 2018 graduate of MU with a degree in agricultural business. He was on the dean’s list for seven of his eight college semesters and also served as vice president on the IFC Council, which governs all fraternal organizations. He was a member of FarmHouse Fraternity. 

During the summer after his junior year in college, Charlie traveled to Germany and France for three weeks, taking part in a study abroad experience that took him to different farms and other ag-related businesses. 

“It was eye-opening to see agriculture in another country, especially in a different continent,” Charlie said. “The experience directly impacted me as I’m now back home on the farm working with my dad, two older brothers and brother-in-law. That’s connected on my, seeing where our product goes beyond the elevator and seeing what that product turns into and how they go on to feeding the world on a day-to-day basis.”

Charlie and his family grow corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa in the Missouri River bottoms in the shadows of Kansas City, near Liberty. He hopes to continue growing the family farm and to help diversify the operation so it can capture some of the changes in the marketplace. The family currently has a pumpkin patch and corn maze, and he hopes to help educate the public on agriculture. 

“I appreciate the opportunity to receive the FCS Financial scholarship,” Charlie said. “It’s nice to be recognized by an organization we do business with every day. Without FCS Financial, our family wouldn’t be able to do what we do on a daily basis.”

Karlee Renkoski Rodgers – Everton

With a B.S. in journalism, Karlee graduated from MU in December 2017. 

Although journalism courses and publications took up most of Karlee’s time, she was also involved in other activities including Christian Campus House and ballroom club, which she said became one of her favorite experiences. She also participated in a variety of events while living in the dorms at MU.

According to Karlee, taking part in internships were major stepping stones to her becoming a journalist.

“An advantage at the University of Missouri is that they use the Missouri method, which basically means almost everything is hands-on,” she explained. 

Karlee wrote for the campus newspaper, The Maneater, her freshman year, and took The Columbia Missourian as a course her sophomore year. She completed an internship at 417 Magazine in Springfield, and later became a contributor for Vox Magazine, a Columbia-based publication. 

“During a study abroad, I used my strategic communication skills in a course that allowed us to work with companies in the community,” Karlee said. “I also held an internship at a nonprofit in Columbia doing strategic communication tasks.” 

In her final college semester, Karlee was an editor at Vox Magazine.

The journalist calls her study abroad experience in Melbourne, Australia, at La Trobe University, “one of the most impactful five months of my life.”

Enveloped in another culture, Karlee met Australian and other international students as well as studied her major and minors through the eyes of another establishment. 

“I was able to work with the community doing strategic communication and explored the area of the country I was located,” she said. “While I didn’t want to leave, I still keep up with many of my friends there.”

Currently, Karlee works as the associate editor for the trade magazine, Baking & Snack, one of a number of publications under Sosland Publishing located in Kansas City. 

Karlee recently married Jackson Rodgers and moved to Carbondale, Illinois, where he attends physician assistant school. She continues to work at Sosland Publishing in a remote position. 

“In the years to come, I expect to explore my skills and passions on a deeper level to obtain a greater expertise and to push my creativity,” she said. 

Breilly Roy – Trenton

Breilly completed her undergraduate degree in May 2017 at Central Methodist University in Fayette where she studied marine biology and theatre. She went on to earn a Master of Professional Science in marine ecosystems and society with a focus on marine conservation in December 2018 from Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami. 

Breilly Roy

Breilly’s undergraduate focus was split between marine biology ventures, theatre performances and rehearsals and completing work-study projects within the marketing communications department. She was named outstanding freshman female; was a four-time Irene Ryan nominee; served as president, secretary and treasurer of the Marine Biology Club; and received an invitation to a summer study at Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Additionally, Breilly took part in learning experiences in Bonaire for coral reef ecology, Dauphin Island, Alabama, for a deepwater horizon oil spill study and Panama City Beach, Florida, for marine ecosystems studies.

In graduate school, Breilly worked at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center and encountered two learning experiences: one in Chiloe, Chile, and the other in Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

The week-long Chili learning experience found Breilly studying how tourism impacted the locals of that particular archipelago. 

“We stayed on a sheep farm and participated in everything from potato harvesting to wool spinning to visiting salmon and mussel farms,” she said. “This gave us a brand-new perspective as to how agritourism positively and negatively affects the lives of the locals.”

Breilly said she and her group partner created new ways for the family farm to grow their tourism business, suggesting a number of media outlets for advertisements and working to bring in more school groups for study abroad experiences. 

In Ecuador, Breilly’s 2 1/2 weeklong venture was spent learning about the unique ecosystems of the islands along with the economic and cultural impact of tourism.

“We were able to truly enjoy all aspects of the island by hiking up an active volcano, scuba diving, snorkeling, mountain biking and visiting local fruit farms,” Breilly explained. “We spent the majority of our time out in the community learning about the culture and enjoying the wonderful views!”

Two internships further helped Breilly develop her career skills. As a saltmarsh intern at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuse in Wells, Maine, she assisted with salt marsh health monitoring, and took counts of saltmarsh sparrow and monitored vegetation. Working as an environmental education intern at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuse in Titusville, Florida, she helped educate students about the importance of habitats, manatees and sea turtles. At the completion of her internship, she was promoted to a ranger position within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The biggest takeaway from those experiences was being able to gain professional experience within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Breilly said. “I have learned so much about the federal work system along with the different career options within. Each site has also offered different opportunities for growth.”

Currently a visitor services ranger at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuse, Breilly’s main responsibilities center on managing environmental education programs, staffing the front desk, assisting with volunteer coordination and providing general maintenance to public use areas. She’s in the process of earning an incident qualification card to assist with prescribed burns and wildfires in the region. 

She resides in Titusville, Florida, and hopes to one day become a refuge manager. 

Chad Schneider – Warrenton

Having majored in agribusiness management, emphasis in ag systems management, Chad is a December 2017 graduate of MU.

While at MU Chad was a member of Independent Aggies and MU Collegiate Farm Bureau. 

A travel abroad experience sent Chad to Germany for 10 days. There, he was able to see first-hand how agriculture differs from the U.S. Smaller-scale farming dominates there, he said, with family farms in Germany

Chad also gained experience through internships at Service and Supply Co-op in New Florence and Agrigold Seed Company in Warrenton. 

Currently an account manager for Altec manufacturing’s auction division, J.J. Kane, Chad lives in Warrenton with his wife, Erica, and daughter, Brynn. He plans to eventually return home to the family farm. 

Shelby (Wilson) Spangler – Seneca

A nursing major, Shelby graduated from College of the Ozarks in May 2018. In addition to her studies, she worked at the school’s daycare and “loved every second of being able to teach and love on little kids.”

Shelby (Wilson) Spangler

The summer between her junior and senior years in college, Shelby traveled to Belize on a medical mission trip with College of the Ozarks. 

“That experience impacted me in ways I can’t even begin to explain,” she said. “We helped so many people, offering them care they otherwise would have never received. We also got to visit one of Belize’s only dialysis clinics where we were able to see how care was given with very limited resources.”

Shelby continued by noting that people in Belize often travel hours every day just to get the dialysis they need to survive. “It amazes me how positive their outlook on life is even though they have nothing,” she added. “Most of these patients are unable to keep jobs due to needing treatments daily, leaving them to the will of their families and friends around them to help with all of their bills, including housing and food.”

Learning to always be grateful for what she has and to cherish family and friends, Shelby said having a positive attitude and outlook on life is a choice we all make daily and it affects those around you.

“I have always tried to take the experience and the lessons I learned from the people of Belize and apply it to my everyday life,” Shelby said. “No matter what I may be going through, there is always something to be grateful for and be positive about.”

While she previously worked at Cox Medical Center in Branson, Shelby recently moved back to Seneca and now works in Urgent Care in Joplin and Webb City for Freeman Health Systems. 

Shelby is married to Caleb Spangler, and is working toward her master’s degree to become a family nurse practitioner. She hopes to use the degree to help impact the lives of those in her home area. 

Victoria Starnes – Lebanon 

Victoria is a July 2017 graduate of MSU with a B.S. degree in biology, emphasis in wildlife biology. 

At MSU, she was a member of the pride band, marching color guard and played bassoon in concerts. Victoria was also a member of Sigma Alpha professional agricultural sorority, serving as second vice president. Additionally, she is a recipient of the Board of Governor’s scholarship. 

“In my time at Missouri State University, I worked mostly with plants and small mammals, but after graduation I stumbled into a fisheries research assistant position,” Victoria said.

After a year with the Resource Science Division of the Missouri Department of Conservation focusing in hydrology, fish community and water quality, Victoria said she found her calling. She then accepted a graduate position at Mississippi State University studying the impacts of water level management on Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. 

Currently a graduate research assistant in the Wildlife Fisheries and Aquaculture Department at Mississippi State, Victoria serves as the Dean’s Council representative for the university’s subunit of the American Fisheries Society.

“As a member of the executive committee, I strive to engage and encourage undergraduate students to pursue field experiences in fisheries and develop new skills,” she said. 

An active volunteer at the Oktibbeha County Humane Society, Victoria volunteers several times each month and has fostered three animals in the past year. She’s a member of the Friends of Noxubee group, which recently nominated her as a board member candidate. 

Victoria resides in Starkville, Mississippi, and hopes to receive her graduate degree in December 2020. She eventually plans to return to Missouri and work for the Missouri Department of Conservation as a fisheries biologist or resource scientist.

Spencer Wheeler – Hardin

Spencer Wheeler

Spencer attended NWMSU and graduated in May 2019 with a degree in management information systems. 

In college, he was active in Baptist Student Union, cyber defense club and Knacktive. 

NWMSU hosted a number of discussion panels, and Spencer took part in those learning opportunities to hear from professionals as they discussed today’s network security problems.

Through Knacktive, an organization that divides teams into actual companies, Spencer worked with the non-profit, Kansas City-based American Royale organization where he prepared ideas on how to broaden the group’s marketing solutions. 

“(Because of Knacktive) I learned how to work in a team environment and how to interact in a professional manner with businesses,” he explained.

Today, Spencer works for an assisted living community called Immanuel as a PC support technician. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska. 

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