A $100,000 Moline Foundation gift will allow Western Illinois University-Quad-Cities to expand its dual-enrollment program to local students.
A toy John Deere tractor given to the university by the foundation helped announce the plan Wednesday at Western's campus in Moline.
"Here we grow again," quipped Dr. Joseph Rives, vice president for Quad-Cities and Planning.
A Horticulture 180 class will be offered free this fall to Western-Quad-Cities students enrolled in the dual-enrollment program, said School of Agriculture director Dr. Andrew Baker. Similar to programs offered in Macomb, it will allow high school students in Illinois and Iowa to earn three college credits "before they officially begin their collegiate careers," he said.
"What parent wouldn't like that?" asked newly elected student government association president Jesse Ramos. He said he is majoring in international business management with hopes of a future Deere & Co. career.
"It's (agriculture) a way of life for millions of people," Ramos said. "It is our past and our future."
Moline Foundation President-CEO Joy Boruff said the new program is a chance for students to "earn while you learn." Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in both Illinois and Iowa in terms of economic impact, she said, with one in four jobs in the Quad-Cities related to agriculture.
"Clearly, there is an opportunity to educate our future workforce about the growth and availability of jobs and careers in this sector," Boruff said.
New instructor Al Zwiling, of Sherrard, Illinois, said the Western Illinois class will mirror what's offered in Macomb. "Its goal will be to provide the basics of science and make students aware of all the career opportunities," he said.
WIU President Jack Thomas said Ramos' participation in Wednesday's event confirmed that Western Illinois is a student-driven organization.
"With our expanded Quad-Cities campus — located in one of the most significant population centers in this region — Western is positioned to offer students the emerging and relevant educational programs needed by our area employers," Thomas said.
Providing rural education to urbanites became a priority at a foundation strategic planning meeting three years ago, Boruff said. This year the Moline Foundation marks its 65th anniversary, she said.