Connections Bolster Student Leader in Dairy and Agriculture

Working from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. every day while in high school isn’t conducive to completing college applications.

But that’s what Avelardo Vargas did.

“There were a lot of things that could have impeded me from continuing my education,” Vargas said. “But most of those problems were resolved because I met the right people.”

It was those people — a University of Idaho recruitment specialist and scholarship donors — who opened the door to an education for the junior. Vargas is earning his degree in Animal and Veterinary Sciences so he can help the dairy industry — the work in which he was raised — find solutions to problems the industry faces.

Vargas found applying to college and navigating admittance difficult and confusing, especially while working a full-time job at a 5,000-cow dairy during high school. He received guidance through what can be an overwhelming process by working with the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP).

A CAMP recruitment specialist worked with Vargas between his shifts at the dairy helping him with applications and ensuring the high schooler took advantage of all available opportunities.

A huge monetary impediment for Vargas was removed when he became a Chobani Scholar, a multi-year scholarship providing financial support to students with family connections to the dairy industry who want to pursue a career in dairy.

Once Vargas settled into his classes, he helped start the U of I campus chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) in 2020. A national organization, MANRRS fosters the inclusion and advancement of ethnic and cultural groups underrepresented in their fields and students who are underrepresented throughout their studies and careers.

“It is really important to give all these students from different minorities a voice in the agricultural industry and show them that they’re valued in this industry,” Vargas said.

He hopes other college hopefuls won’t let barriers stop them from following their goals. He suggests that anyone trying to find a way to attend college should not be afraid to ask for help.

Upon graduating from U of I, Vargas plans to return to southern Idaho to make a meaningful impact in the health and profitability of dairy farms whether that be in sales or management.

“I had to get out there and look for the opportunities and people that would help break down the barriers that stood in the way of continuing my education,” Vargas said. “Without the support of those who have helped me along the way, I would not be where I am today.”